Marika Hackman is pictured in a pair of big white pants cradling a piglet on the sleeve of her third album. Funny and brazen, it’s a neat visualisation of the step forward she’s taken with Any Human Friend.
Having left behind her electro-folk beginnings on 2017’s I’m Not Your Man, on which she was backed by The Big Moon, she’s now cleaned up her grunge act and is aiming for a pop bullseye. The arrangements are sharper, the choruses bigger, and the reference points more ’80s than ever before. This is crystallised on the earworm ‘I’m Not Where You Are’, which is an irresistible slice of retro new-wave synth-pop.
At the same time, her lyrics have become more explicit in their depiction of female desire. ‘Conventional Ride’, which nods to The Beatles’ psychedelic era, is an ‘I Kissed A Girl’ for the inclusive generation. The punningly titled ‘Hand Solo’, a hangover from her grunge period, is on ode to masturbation that also swipes at the patriarchy.
The twin sensibilities of pop and overt sexuality are underpinned by offbeat studio details. The pitch-shifted vocals on ‘Send My Love’, which tallies icy synth lines with a sweet delivery, captures the grotesquery of shame, and the chorus of inner-head voices on the crunching guitar pop of ‘The One’ (“you’re such an attention whore!”) paint a humorous portrait of an arrogant rock star.
Yet it’s when Hackman is vulnerable that she’s most affecting, peeling away the sassiness to admit on ‘Come Undone’ that she just wants “to be somebody’s babe”.