The Student Playlist

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REVIEW: Marika Hackman – ‘Covers’ (self-released)


In a sentence:

While there are a healthy number of inspired takes on beautiful heartbreak originals, Marika Hackman’s ‘Covers’ is too uniformly sombre.

On her fourth album Covers, British indie artist Marika Hackman both strips down and amplifies various songs about heartbreak. After the success of Any Human Friend, with its tongue-in-cheek lyrics, and the earworm-y guitar riffs of I’m Not Your Man, Hackman is yet again showcasing her ability to create a song that stays with you. Tinkering with what gave the originals their impact, she has released a record that is unified in sound, but at times drops the ball on what actually makes a captivating cover, as the mood of the album eventually glazes over with the same isolated melancholy.

Cover versions are a tricky subject, and there are few who can work them for their benefit. Marika Hackman does this to various degrees of success. This might have something to do with the pacing and overall dynamism of the record, or maybe with the expectations that come with covering, let’s say, Grimes, but when listening from start to finish, Covers sounds a bit flatline. At some points, one might even rather yearn for the original than the Marika version, and whilst this is natural when it comes to re-working somebody else’s material, it’s mostly due to how similar all the songs end up in terms of their mood and disposition. There is great variety in the artists whose tracks Hackman has chosen to rework – there is the slow, languishing take on Radiohead’s ‘You Never Wash Up After Yourself’, the expansive ‘All Night’ by Beyonce, the iconic ‘Realiti’ by Grimes; yet, when ‘Realiti’ finally starts playing, it sounds almost like more of the same, and its re-imagined, moody achiness just doesn’t hit as a surprise or a refresher. When listened as a whole, Covers drowns just slightly as the dynamic variation between tracks slows each time, dragging you a bit too deep into the well of melancholy without payoff.

That doesn’t mean Covers doesn’t house some inspiring choices and execution. The ‘gay yearning’ on The Shins’ ‘Phantom Limb’ seems right up Hackman’s street when it comes to witty lyrical turns of phrase, and the sonic rework is so far from the original it truly presents a whole new palette of pleasure to the listener. MUNA’s ‘Pink Light’ also hits in a delicious way, the pop mechanism of the beautifully progressing chords of the original now shining in the new cloak of strong bass, wispy keyboard overlay and Marika’s timbre at its core. Of course, a cover doesn’t have to turn a ‘happy’ sounding song into a ‘sad’ song to be ‘good’ – it can simply amplify. For example, ‘Temporary Loan’ sounds exceptionally heartbreaking on Covers, this completely stripped-down version giving spotlight to the genius of the melody and writing of Edith Frost’s original and its in-your-face, hopelessly loveless lyrics.

Covers is largely enjoyable, but more so when consumed piecemeal than as a continuous, end-to-end listen, where it all blends into one. Listened to in parts, it is a completely enjoyable exercise in creativity and Hackman’s signature style of voice and sophisticated melancholy. Full of respectful homages to the greats of heartbreak like Elliott Smith, Covers has plenty of individual moments of brilliance, but not enough to outlive and outgrow its title. (6/10) (Aiste Samuchovaite)

Listen to Covers by Marika Hackman here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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