2013 was one hell of a year for Marika Hackman. Her rapid and demonstrably well-deserved rise to fame came through tours with the likes of Laura Marling and Johnny Flynn, an appearance at the wonderful Green Man festival, and of course her critically acclaimed debut album, That Iron Taste. As if this wasn’t enough, she concluded the year on an incredibly high note, with Sugar Blind: a melancholy, dreamlike EP, spewing with psychedelic vibes and ‘viscous sweet delight’.
Hackman’s vocals, categorized by wistfulness and occasional hints towards grunge, are flawless throughout. Cinnamon is reminiscent of a haunting nursery rhyme, yet through the use of sickly sweet imagery, Hackman swoons an eerily profound commentary on the dumbing down of mankind. Accompanied by what seems to emulate the distant blinking of electronic devices, detached and in submission with ‘rubber coated veins’, she declares herself to be free, since she ‘can watch TV’. Like Cinnamon, Itchy Teeth places much emphasis on sensory experience, and again Hackman’s dark side is evident, as it often veers towards being twisted and gothic lyrically. Through minimal instrumentation and some particularly ethereal humming, she remarkably steers clear of the potential cliché in the phrase, ‘hold me for an hour’, and the track is subsequently raw and unaffected.
In the EP’s penultimate track, Wolf, Hackman chants ‘the folding of your skin is making me feel queasy’. A backdrop that itself swings and veers in a delightfully nauseating manner, whilst peppered with a catchy repeated riff, is therefore fitting. This masterful control of instrumentation, for which Charlie Andrew (Alt-J), who produced the record, must additionally take some credit, continues into the last tune. While covering an artist as famed as Joanna Newsom is something of a risky endeavour, Marika’s take on ’81 closes Sugar Blind in a fresh and interesting way. Similar to covers she has released previously (of Dusty Springfield’s Spooky, for example), she uses the tinges of youth still present in her voice to completely make the track her own.
Sugar Blind sees Hackman seeking to establish a sound of her own, unblemished by the influence of others and independent of any particular genre. This is achieved impeccably, even more so than in her previous release, That Iron Taste, and it therefore seems unfair to compare her to other folk artists, as in 2014, Marika Hackman will for sure gain recognition as the unique and innovative artist that she is.