Marika Hackman – Any Human Friend (Sub Pop)

She has been a model. She has been a folk singer. Now, Marika Hackman is a purveyor of fantastic mucky pop songs. She has herself described a certain song on this, her third LP, as a “wank anthem” and in ‘All Night’ she doesn’t skirt around the issue “kissing and fucking all night long”.

The writing of Any Human Friend came directly after splitting with Amber Bain, aka The Japanese House, and whilst there are lyrics describing the ins and outs of a breakup (‘I’m Not Where You Are’), it is also a tale of someone that is single and on her own in her new home quite a lot, if you catch the drift. If you don’t, listen to ‘Hand Solo’. A misspelling of a Star Wars character it is not.

A trick performed by many but not always successfully is to utterly bare ones soul but lay it open on top of a happy pop song that bounces along. Come Undone goes “I think that I love her, but I’m fucking another” sugar coating clear turmoil.

Marika has applied everything she has learnt from the first two records and combined it all to make her definitive album. At least, it defines where she is currently.

‘Hold On’ leans on the more stark side of her style, reminiscent of her debut LP We Slept At Last the echo like double layered vocals and slowed tempo.

‘Wanderlust’ is a red herring above all red herrings, probably a joke to throw everyone off guard. The album rule book states you open with a big number, a single such as ‘Boyfriend’ on her second LP, a mission statement, but third time around Marika is on her own, bleak blues tinted lo-fi which does seem entirely apt but it then halts and surges into ‘The One’, the second single from the record, and an infectious pop hook laden gem, casting off the end of a relationship melancholy by being self deprecating with the devil-on-her-shoulders backing vocals “she likes to have attention/she longs for your affection”.

‘Conventional Ride’ rolls along a highway of indie pop, a bit more indie than pop this time, but has another change of pace that keeps everything fresh and interesting, a repetitive and simple hook that digs itself into your consciousness and sticks around for days.

Any Human Friend is comfortably the best pop album released this year, and probably the queer album of the decade but without trying hard to push any agenda, it is open and honest without making it a manifesto, it is as normal to have a wank in the morning as it is to make a cup of tea. And then have a cigarette.

Splitting up with someone doesn’t mean you’re not horny, and sad, and enjoying some solitude and angry and accepting. We’re complex and misunderstood. Much like the pig on the cover. A half naked Marika with a piglet that is considered dirty and ugly but is clean and cute and cuddly and sexual (they orgasm for ages apparently) and human like. This record will be described as sexy and filthy but it is also heart-breaking and grotesque and beautiful and funny and complex.

An anti – climax this is not. With one hand free.

Any Human Friend is out now on Sub Pop.

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