On Tuesday night, the ever so slightly hidden away Portland Arms played host to London acoustic artist Marika Hackman. She confesses to being slightly apprehensive at returning to the venue, as her first gig there accompanied by a fight amongst audience members, and somebody fainted during her second appearance there. Luckily, this third time passed without significant injury to anyone in tightly packed room – as far as I’m aware – and was a great opportunity to see a rising star of British music.
Hackman’s rising profile has been accompanied by the inevitable comparisons to Laura Marling which plague most female acoustic singer-songwriters. Whilst her slight, fair-haired appearance no doubt fuels these comparisons, (as well as her friendship with Marling, who appears in the video for 'Animal Fear'), her softly sung affecting melodies bear much closer resemblance to Lucy Rose. Hackman opens with ‘Retina Television’, a brooding ballad of dark imagery and finger-picked guitar. Indeed, much of Hackman’s writing leans towards the darker end of the lyrical spectrum, and she’s playful in her acknowledgement of this. After introducing one song as a tale of “someone who goes to the words to wait for their lover, but they don’t arrive so they lay down and die”, she invites the crowd to join in on another “clap-along banger”.
However, at this stage in her career, Hackman’s song-writing is still a touch too simplistic to sustain a set which lasts for over an hour. Despite her evident wit, the relative lack of chat from the stage between songs doesn’t help the sense of many songs merging together – on record they maintain a distinct set of lyrical images, but live they lose their uniqueness. One of her final songs was a cover of Joanna Newsom’s 'Garden of Eden', and given the opportunity to branch out of her own repertoire her performance comes to life. A beautiful original maybe, but Hackman does it justice, showing that she’s got the tools to grow into live performance as her song-writing improves. When she next returns to The Portland Arms, in all likelihood with a new album given her prolific output, she’ll no doubt be a star. But right now, she’s still in the making.