Marika Hackman Tells Grown Up Stories on 'Big Sigh'

BY Eric HillPublished Jan 11, 2024

It's always been a fool's errand to try and encapsulate Marika Hackman's music with a simple genre tag. One need only glance at the list of artists whose songs she chose to interpret on her 2020 lockdown release, Covers, to realize her stylistic identity is a moving target. Elliott Smith, the Shins and Beyoncé, however disparate on the pop periodic table, all overlap near the common nexus of heartache. Heartache, sung quietly into a sleeping ear, or rubbed up against the skin of another on the dancefloor, connects the dots between the songs on Big Sigh.

The album's title refers to the deep breath of air that comes with defeat, but also the one that leads the way into a new battle. It opens with the repeated phrase "Gold is on the ground / I was happy for a while," electronically garbled and nested in strings, like a musical preset or reset you'd find when turning on a new instrument. This leads right into the album's first single, "No Caffeine," a banger that's equal parts romantic psych-up and psych-out that wedges a greasy guitar chorus between the beats of an electro-pop wind-up. Evidence of Hackman's growth as a producer, writer and instrumentalist, contributing all but brass and strings here, reveals itself around every new corner.

Hackman flirts with the boundaries of '80s art-pop and '90s quiet/loud/quiet, mashing up the title track into something sounding like St. Vincent tackling a track from Nirvana's In Utero. Some songs creep up behind you, whispering that you should be ready for the big shove that's coming. Sometimes the build is as powerful as the push, like the slow winding tension of piano and voice on "Hanging" that finally explodes in the final moments with "Yeah you were a part of me / I'm so relieved it hurts!" Sonic experiments continually reshape the album as well, like "Vitamins," sounding like a vintage Air 
track that's quietly struggling out of a box of broken tools.

Big Sigh is an adventure into the dark hallways of pop sadness with the accrued wisdom of a folk songbook clutched tightly in stronger arms. While there is no shortage these days of songwriters  railing against soured relationships, Hackman has finally made it out of her twenties with all her good intentions and bad decisions leaving marks on her heart. She's ready to turn those pages and tell her grown-up tales.

Tour Dates

Latest Coverage