A Deep Sleep

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Melancholy surrounds us. Artists tend to acknowledge it, perhaps
address it in a new light, sometimes even fully embrace it. We Slept at Last is an album that does
all of the above, though still not allowing it to ever drift completely into
sadness.

Marika Hackman isn’t new to the scene, but shows a mastery
of skill on her debut full-length effort. We
Slept at Last
is the fourth overall release from Hackman, with a mini-album
and two EPs under her belt as well. Yet without a doubt, this album is her
strongest, most cohesive body of music yet. The songs describe bluntly the
darkness in the quotidian, often mentioning or euphemizing death. Hackman also
sings with a sense of self-worth, which prevents the tone from declining into
self-loathing. There are interesting stories woven around these images, such as
a woman’s baptism or the tale of finding a dead lover in the woods. Musically,
the album is one expanding landscape, eerie like foggy neighborhoods with
haunted houses.

“Drown” opens the record, delivering the gloom while also setting our expectations for what follows. To be fair, it isn’t a
weepy song- it’s less about suicide and more about obsession, though I suppose
a graph of the two would show they probably intersect somewhere. There are other moments that could fit this motif-
in “Skin,” passion and jealousy are mixed, a dangerous combination- but we
never see the consequences of an obsessive relationship like we do in, say, “Girl
with One Eye” by Florence and the Machine. Hackman instead resolves her story
with wisdom.  

In fact, the record is peppered with inspirational quips,
and the first comes immediately in the first verse of “Drown”:

“To know
your faults
To know
yourself
I suit me well”

This line is reminiscent of “What He Wrote” by Laura
Marling, when she sings about a dysfunctional relationship. Hackman takes it in
a slightly different direction, instead accepting herself. She refers to her
skin and body frequently, embracing her life and her mortality, but it is in a
way that does not incite fear or dread- it is acceptance. This maturity again
is seen in “Ophelia”:

“We don’t
know the weight of all
The words we
say now
In a few
more years, with open ears
Would you still say them aloud?”

Always careful in her choice of
words, Marika remains enigmatic throughout the album. The instrumentation
supporting her voice complements the mystery. The guitar progression in “Open
Wide” is downright suspenseful. The slow whining of a synth in “Undone Undress”
brings to mind Sigur Ros. This isn’t to say that there aren’t any lighter
moments on the album- of course there are. There is a happy riff in “In Words,”
though the way the song meanders is less reassuring.  “Monday Afternoon” has a polite flute, which
is not sad, though perhaps foreboding. This track might be the best sample of We Slept at Last; a catchy tune where
the melancholy is not so obvious, but the lyrics describe eternal rest and
rotting skin.  

Wise beyond her years, Marika
Hackman is destined to have a career as impressive as Marling herself, who has
released five studio albums by the time she turned 25. If everything that
follows this release is equally as deliberate and gloomy as We Slept at Last, I would be satisfied.

TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2015

9. We Slept at Last – Marika Hackman

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