One of the more blissful moments in my life is when I go on a blind date with a musician, or rather, their music. With no knowledge of Marika Hackman or her work, I recently embarked on a listen to her latest release, We Slept At Last. I liken it to the drowsy, late-night (post-party) conversation with old acquaintances at friend’s place. After the bottles are empty, all that is left are the people you like, and the talk of nostalgia tangled into thoughts of the distant future. Someone may have fallen asleep on the couch, but no one wants to leave quite yet. Hackman’s sound would be no stranger to this moment.
This series of songs assembled for We Slept At Last blend together effortlessly, a well-composed selection for a through listen. However, contrary to the title, they aren’t all mellow tunes. Hackman picks up the pace in “Animal Fear,” playing with samples from what could be the old Roadrunner and Coyote cartoons, for the highlight of the album. She effortlessly rhymes her way through percussive harmonies to create a feel-good song worth many more repeat listens than any Top 40 track.
But the majority of We Slept At Last does focus on a tranquil state of being. “Open Wide” is heavily reminiscent of Wye Oak’s sound: a slow and blurry tone with a minimalist emphasis on guitar, ambient sounds floating in the background, and a climax right at the end made obvious by an increase in volume. It’s lovely to be sure.Though the next track, “Skin,” showcases what Hackman does best on this release – soft and moody tones with somewhat bleak lyrics, that evoke feelings forgotten from the rush of day – and allows herself to get loud doing it. Featuring a duet with London-based singer Sivu, she intertwines her voice in harmonies that reach depths getting close to the soul. But it’s all too short, just over three minutes and this glorious exploration of physicality in lyrics ends. Perhaps there’s nothing more to be said, but I would listen for a full five minutes if she let us.
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Hackman departs from her previous work with this album: never getting too heavy or too loud, remaining constantly delicate throughout. Yet with We Slept At Last, she explores and perfects one type of sound. In “Undone, Undress,” this expertise is evident: building the feeling ever so slowly and simply disappearing at the end. In this theme, her effortless vocals remain almost apathetic, light and airy on top of both major and minor keys. This consistency in one element of the music allows the spotlight to shine on the myriad of instruments featured, as well as the beauty in the simplicity of sound. Not all songs must end with a bang, and through the lack of overproduction in these tunes, Hackman reminds us all that often less is more.
So I invite you to spend a night with Marika Hackman, or rather, We Slept At Last. And if you’d like to get to know her (music) better, her entire discography is available on Soundcloud. If you plan to see her live on tour, be aware that she currently resides in the UK, and your budget might thank you by just buying her music instead. But I imagine Marika Hackman live is sublime.