Harkin: Harkin (Handmirror) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, January 24th, 2021  




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Katie Harkin first cut her musical teeth in the mid-noughties with childhood friend Nestor Matthews when they formed Sky Larkin, going on to release a trio of critically acclaimed albums via Wichita Recordings. The Leeds-based band was something of a beacon as Harkin’s intelligent punchy songwriting, sonorous delivery, and angular guitar work cut a swathe through a musical scene that was in the thrall of artistically bereft mutton fingered laden rock and lumpen “indie landfill.” 

Harkin has subsequently become something of a “musician’s musician,” and is hugely respected behind the scenes for her talent, drive, and creativity. She became a regular touring member of Sleater-Kinney when they reformed, also joining and collaborating with the likes of WaxahatcheeWild Beasts, Kurt Vile, and Courtney Barnett. 

Her debut self-titled solo album features contributions from Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa as well as Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner. It’s something that’s been mooted for quite a while but has certainly been well worth the wait. It was written by Harkin across various locations including on the road, in a cottage in the Peak District, and in Upstate New York, giving the listener a real sense of contrast. There’s a tension within the album informed, no doubt, by Harkin’s nomadic lifestyle and the juxtaposition of the quiet isolation of the English countryside with being on the road and the fast moving high tech world of the city.

It’s a debut of real musical sophistication underpinned by some sparkling songwriting. At times, Harkin sounds wistful and reflective, and at others she’s resolute and determined. The restless “Mist on Glass,” replete with chiming guitars and driving percussion, conjures up an atmosphere of balanced calm and turbulence.

 “Nothing the Night Can Change” is a beautifully crafted slice of guitar-driven pop, whilst the dreamlike “Decade” has an almost Laura Marling-esque pastoral indie-folk quality to it. Elsewhere, there’s the classy pop of “Dial It In” and the hypnotic grandeur of “Sun Stay With Me.”

It’s an album full of depth, beauty, and poetic intelligence that showcases Katie Harkin’s formidable skills as a songwriter and musician. (www.handmirror.bandcamp.com/releases)

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 5/10


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