REVIEW: Harkin – Honeymoon Suite

When delving into Harkin’s past, it becomes clear why her second album Honeymoon Suite is so replete with influences. She is a natural collaborator, someone whose touring and recording history includes work with the likes of Sleater Kinney, Wild Beasts, Courtney Barnett, Waxahatchee, and Dua Lipa. With such varied experience it is no wonder that her own work seems to pull from all over the place. I suppose the question for Harkin, as for any up-and-coming artist, is whether she manages to pull from all of the artists and acts she enjoys and works with to make something that sounds like her own, whether she is able to transition from being a hugely successful collaborator to an artist in her own right.

There are times on the album when this is in doubt. The run of three songs made up by ‘Mt Merino’, ‘Talk of the Town’, and ‘To Make Her Smile’ are so drenched in St Vincent influence that it’s hard to ignore. That said, it seems to draw from what I’ll call ‘good St Vincent’ from albums such as Strange Mercy, and I much prefer these songs to anything Annie Clark has put out in recent times. ‘Mt Merino’, while the most St Vincenty, is an absolute cracker of a song and definitely escapes the clutches of the things it reminds you of. It builds superbly.

Similar praise can be given to another song that wears its influences on its sleeve. ‘Matchless Lightning’ feels like it must have been written following a session listening to the early work of Elbow, before Guy Garvey took some weird pill and turned into a Jubilee anthem making machine. One thing to be said for Harkin, then, is that when she does let her influences take a lead she knows where to pick from.

While all of the songs mentioned have their merits, and each is a great tune in its own right, it is when Harkin’s personality takes centre stage that the album really flies. ‘(Give Me) The Streets Of Leeds’ may still have some remnants of Annie Clark, but the story behind the song, the chorus that sings of a northern British town, lend it an authenticity and excitement that make it very unique. Harkin delivers this song with such power that even if it isn’t the absolute highlight here, it is one that will always make you sit up and listen when it comes on.

In terms of absolute highlights, though, well Harkin actually gets these out of the way in the opening run of three songs. ‘Body Clock’ is just a huge way to introduce the album, an indie-electronica anthem with beautifully layered vocals – slightly glitchy in parts and with a really claustrophobic feel, the repeated mantra of ‘who are you putting yourself in harm’s way for?’ feels pretty chilling throughout. ‘A New Day’ dials up the optimism. Feeling like a tribute to her wife, this song sparkles with personality. And the pared back, hypnotic, ‘Here Again’ pulls you a long with some beautiful instrumentation and the most welcoming vocals on the whole LP.

So in answer to my earlier musings, I would say that Harkin definitely does do enough to mark herself out as an artist here. Whenever I am new to an artist, I will spend many of my early listens working out what they remind me of, what they’re drawing from, and in this instance that was pretty clear. But Harkin has taken influences from interesting places, evolved them, and worked her own sound around them to make an involving and inviting album. It’s definitely worth your time.

Words by Fran Slater

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