Isolation in 2020 provided an unexpected artistic boost for many artists. Not so for Marika Hackman. “I found myself feeling the least creative I’ve ever felt in my life,” the singer-songwriter tells Apple Music. “I was seeing all these other artists such as Charli XCX making records very publicly, and I was feeling a huge amount of pressure to write my next album.” New material eluding her, she turned instead to other people’s. Covers— recorded in her childhood bedroom at her parents’ countryside home in Devon—is a collection of serene and at times devastating versions of 10 tracks Hackman has had on repeat over the last few years. “This album was a way of doing something and achieving something,” she says of covering artists including Elliott Smith, Beyoncé, Grimes, and Sharon Van Etten. “I really love it, because it's basically a playlist of my favorite tracks which I’m just listening to in a slightly different way.” Here, the singer—who also produced Covers—steps away from the guitar-based indie of her second and third albums and back towards the haunting tones of 2015 debut We Slept at Last. “I wrote a lot of We Slept at Last at my parents’ house,” she says. “Being isolated and in the middle of nowhere is something you can very much hear on that record. Covers is an updated, more modern feeling of it.” Most of all, she adds, it helped her unlock what she needed for that fourth album. “It was a confidence boost,” adds Hackman. “And it’s definitely taught me some things that I will be taking into writing the next album.” Read on as Hackman walks us through each of her covers.
You Never Wash Up After Yourself “I was working in my bedroom at my parents’ house and a bee came into my room. It was really loud and sounded like a fly on the recording. Once I finished ‘You Never Wash Up After Yourself’ [originally by Radiohead], I was like, ‘Ah, this could be good.’ It's quite on the nose in terms of the lyrics, but I quite like that. I wanted this song to be at the start because it’s choral. There’s something about choral music—it feels to me like an opening, like a weird portal that takes you somewhere else and into a different mental space. It's setting up your physical response to the rest of the music.”
Phantom Limb “My brother introduced me to The Shins when I was 14, and ‘Phantom Limb’ has always been one of my favorite tracks of theirs. Doing a cover, you find out a lot about the song, specifically with the lyrics. They’re quite abstract here, but I discovered online that the song is about a secret lesbian romance at a high school where they're being judged by their peers. I had never known that. Yet I felt a real connection to the song when I was a closeted mid-teen having crushes on all the girls at school. The feeling of this song suddenly made so much sense.”
Playground Love “I love Air, but I only really started listening to this song a year ago. I like how chilled it is and horizontal it is, with that wonky, slightly out-of-tune bass and that very lazy vocal delivery. That was really fun to sing. On my last two albums, I've been pushing the way that I sing a lot in order to elevate the lyrical content. But here, almost in reverence to the songs that I picked and the artists that I was covering, I just wanted to sing them nicely. So it was like my voice almost went back to how I used to sing when I was 21.”
Realiti “I love Grimes and I love Art Angels. ‘Realiti’ is the most obvious one to choose from that album, but I don't care. I’d had this one as an idea for a long time anyway, so I had some iterations of it on my computer. But when I went back to look at them, they didn't work. I decided to really dig in and strip it out even more. The vocal line is really beautiful, as is the melody, and it was about working out how to capture the essence without having a four-on-the-floor drum beat coming in or the more aggressive side of her music. How I could make it more Marika—a little bit more gentle and floaty. This song is really tough to sing. It was a lovely challenge to do that, and it definitely made me a better singer by the end of it.”
Jupiter 4 “My favorite one. I had an idea of what I wanted to do with this song [originally by Sharon Van Etten], but remember really struggling with it. Then, just before dinner, I put a little delay on my vocal and actually did just one take of it. It was like, ‘Yes, it's all about this vocal.’ The song is very interesting to me because it is lyrically a love song and musically a breakup song. I'm always a sucker for a moodier, sad vibe, so bringing that out was fun. I think it's really nice to get the drama of something and push it really hard.”
Pink Light “MUNA are friends of mine, and I had heard one version of this song before it got to what it ended up being. And I remember being floored by the pre-chorus bit—I thought it was so beautiful, so sad. I could see it all. I thought it was a really magical piece of songwriting. So having an opportunity to cover that was great. And also, because they're friends, it feels like keeping it in the family a bit.”
Between the Bars “In summer 2019, I went out to America to tour and thought I should put this [originally by Elliott Smith] in the set. When I came to tour in the UK, I put it on my set here too. Out of everything on this record, I kept it closest to the original. I didn’t want to fuck with it. I just wanted to do a really good performance of it and add texture and color where it felt appropriate. But I wasn't going to strip it back and stick a trap beat on it or anything. So this feels perhaps more like a homage than a cover.”
Temporary Loan “On the original [by Edith Frost] there’s a simple arrangement with piano and bass. The arrangement really makes the song, but I thought it would be interesting to take that away and really just focus on the devastating lyrics. It's still an amazing song. I wanted to have that feeling of desolation and the idea of it just being me in a room with a guitar playing. And that being it. It feels like a nice moment of just reflection before it then zooms back again into the next one.”
In Undertow “This [originally by Alvvays] is just a great song—and lyrically really sad. I didn't even realize I was picking all these really heartbreaking songs! There is more guitar, I guess, comparatively, but it was about letting the lyrics really shine. The strings on this track veer out of tune a bit, which I really like. I don't like lush-sounding strings that are too cinematic or romantic. I will always opt for the slightly more jangly, weird stuff. I've listened to the song a lot and I feel the melancholy in it, but it doesn't floor me. But it was interesting to really actually have to say the lyrics and be like, ‘God, yeah, fuck.’”
All Night “I started this a couple of years ago and it’s just been sitting in my computer. So, obviously, when it came to doing this album, I was like, ‘Well…’ I loved what I had, but it was kind of intimidating me because I didn’t really know where to go with it. Then I sat down and mapped out the structure and just set to work. I'm never going to try and emulate Beyoncé, obviously. That would be fucking insane and problematic. It's taking something I love and reworking it. Her original expands, and it was about removing the instruments and band element but keeping that expansion. And then getting the real intensity in those verses. It comes in super close, holds someone right in the ears, and then just floats away.”


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