Marika Hackman made a very savvy choice when she chose "Boyfriend" as both the opener and lead single for I'm Not Your Man -- savvy because the album makes a pretty seismic shift from the nu-folk of her debut. It's a damn sight noisier for a start, requiring a full band setup. Handily, she happens to be pals with London-based group the Big Moon, who act as her backing band for the record. Much like the Big Moon's own music, this is decidedly grungier than anything she's produced before. But "Boyfriend" also boasts an effortlessly catchy hook, and lyrically it's a blast. Hackman spends the song's running time taunting a nameless "boyfriend" and stealing his girl's affections: "I've got your boyfriend on my mind/I think you know she stayed with me last night/I held his world in my hands/I threw it out to see where it would land." Her sardonic machinations are deliciously entertaining: "It's fine 'cause I am just a girl/It doesn't count/He knows a woman needs a man to make her shout." Musically and thematically, she's cast off the watery vagueness of her debut for a more robust sound and unflinching lyricism. Hackman's described the record as being overtly sexual, and it's nowhere more so than on "Violet." She's dispensed with ambiguous metaphors for a far more direct, and in turn potent, approach: “I’d like to roll around your tongue/caught like a bicycle spoke/you eat, I’ll grow and grow/swelling up until you choke.” All of which is delivered via her playfully dexterous vocal and a mischievous sense of fun.
Listened to in isolation, the aforementioned tracks paint Hackman as some sort of sexually confident femme fatale, but there's plenty of doubt and uncertainty to redress the balance. "My Lover Cindy" boasts one of the record's best melodies as it rides a dancing guitar line and '60s girl group backing vocals. However, the sunny assuredness of the music masks the insecurities held within: "I'm a lousy lover/even if I try/I can go for a couple of weeks and the feelings calcify." I'm Not Your Man isn't exclusively a series of horny confessionals (as wonderful as they are). "Cigarette" unravels with tender candor, her gently plucked guitar frames insightful and intimate details: "Something to talk about/rather than fuck and shout/or maybe we could go to sleep." And the variety within the record displays a wealth of creativity and an infectious energy. "Eastbound Train" is all ramshackle rhythm and seductive melody, "Time's Been Reckless" is a thumping freewheeler, and "Apple Tree" sounds like the soundtrack to a sun-bleached Western, complete with cracking whips and mariachi-like horns. "Gina's World" is not what you might expect (much like the record as a whole) from what is ostensibly an ode to a friend; it's strange, moody, and yet the "she's so good" to me refrain is sincerely sweet. Marika Hackman's latest evolution is a triumph that finds equilibrium amid both wit and heart.