Not as wispy as it initially may seem, “Skin” unfolds with just the right amount of atmospheric oddness and melodic surprise to lend an elusive sturdiness to this deep, quivery song. I am engaged by how artfully Hackman integrates her acoustic guitar with electric and electronic sounds; there’s something satisfyingly new in this aural template, without any sign of strain or self-consciousness. Her melodies, meanwhile, feel at once strong and slippery, opting for directions that often feel unexpected. The most notable example of this comes at the tail end of the verse section, first heard at 0:51 on the words “Oh here’s my hands.” Hackman’s smoky voice and eccentric way with tone and phrasing adds to the enigmatic yet self-possessed vibe.
“Skin” is also a beautifully constructed song, employing a standard verse-chorus-verse structure but tweaking it for emotional impact. Note the way the melody in the verse is repeated twice but the second time veers off unresolved. The first time this happens, the song melts into a haunting guitar break; after the second verse, we finally hear what appears to be the chorus, and a line that feels like the song’s dramatic center (1:52): “I’m a fever in your chest.” But note too that this apparent chorus is brief and also ends unresolved melodically. And then when the chorus returns musically (2:48), it arrives with different lyrics, which reinforces the song’s underlying mystique.
“Skin” features backing vocals by fellow London singer/songwriter Sivu, and is part of a collaborative project the two musicians released in December, in advance of a UK tour together. The other song on the release was a Sivu song called “I Hold” that Hackman, in turn, sang on. Hackman to date has released two EPs, the most recent one entitled Sugar Blind, which came out last month. Thanks to WXPN for the head’s up.