Song of the Week: “Drown” by Marika Hackman

The first sound you hear is an odd, discordant synth. It scoops up into a strange sustained chord, drags it out, keeps holding on to it even when you think the song should break or turn into something else. Finally, when things are feeling the weirdest, a delicate acoustic guitar enters.

Marika Hackman starts singing in her soft, low voice. Her verses have a troubling undercurrent. “You can shine me all you want, but I am hard as I am cold.” The music stays light and floating beneath the first two verses, like leaves and debris flittering along the surface of a creek.

Once it moves to the chorus, though, everything shifts. The only instrument is an ominous, wavering synth, playing a note so low it’s hard to distinguish. As Hackman moves into the second and last chorus, she says, “So, I’ll drown in your mind. I will, I know I will. And suffocate in your smoke. Die stuffing my lungs with their fill.”

What I’m most fascinated by with this artist is how such a sweet, comforting voice can sing such dark and ominous lyrics. She throws these angelic harmonies onto the words, too, which makes me feel confused and disconcerted as a listener. At the same time, that’s what I absolutely love about her music. She’s a beautiful woman. She has a beautiful voice, and on the surface, her music sounds just as beautiful. But when you listen closer, it’s telling some ugly truths. It’s getting at uncomfortable things, lonely things. All those nasty things we want to push down and away. Those things we’d rather keep hidden.

This song is off her debut album, We Slept at Last, which will be released in February 2015. This single has bumped the album onto my instant-buy list. I hope she’s releasing on vinyl!

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