Marika Hackman

Any Human Friend

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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming

Ever since Bob Dylan picked up a Stratocaster and discovered he liked things loud and chaotic in 1965, there has been a long, rich tradition of acoustic-oriented artists deciding a bigger and bolder sound might better serve their message, and Marika Hackman confirms this phenomenon isn't dead by a long shot. Hackman was a breathy-voiced nu-folkie on her first two albums (2013's That Iron Taste and 2015's We Slept at Last), but she picked up a band, beefed up the arrangements, and started speaking up on 2017's I'm Not Your Man. She moves even further away from her starting point with 2019's Any Human Friend. While I'm Not Your Man suggested Hackman had belatedly discovered indie rock, Any Human Friend plays like her hip pop move, with plenty of keyboards and drum machines holding down the backing tracks and Hackman layering glossy harmonies around her vocals. There are guitars here, but they mostly serve as texture while the warm but clean electronic textures carry Hackman's melodies and make room for the lyrics. Any Human Friend sounds sleeker and more polished than Hackman's previous releases, but at the same time it takes the playfully libidinous tone of I'm Not Your Man and cranks it up a few levels. These songs leave no doubt that Hackman is a big fan of sex and pleasure, even if they can turn out to be problematic, and there's something quietly disarming in the unguarded way she sings about her needs (and the degrees to which they're being met, with "Hand Solo" revealing she's willing to take responsibility for her own orgasm if push comes to shove). In 2019 it isn't especially novel that Hackman prefers women to men, but her willingness to explain just what she wants and why she wants it on tunes like "All Night" and "The One" still feels refreshing, witty, and honest, not shocking for their own sake but compelling in her willingness to share without grandstanding. Which may have a lot to do with why Hackman chose to match these lyrics with a more passionate and engaging sound on Any Human Friend -- if you want to get what you want, you have to be sure that you're heard.

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