If you’re into Courtney Barnett or Sleater-Kinney, chances are you’re already a fan of Katie Harkin’s work. She got her start as the guitarist for English rock band Sky Larkin and later became the first ever non-band member to tour with Sleater-Kinney when they put out No Cities to Love in 2015 after a ten-year hiatus. As that trio now gears up to release their anticipated second record since coming back (with the production help of St. Vincent), Harkin has kept busy touring the United States and Europe first as a member of The Sea Lice, Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile’s live support for their collab album, and then again in the backing band on Barnett’s most recent 2018 tour promoting her sophomore LP Tell Me How You Really Feel. If you saw Barnett at Marathon last year, you saw Katie Harkin shred. Now, she moves from stage right to front and center with a new solo project. 

The influence of Harkin’s associated acts is clear on her two-song debut of original “Mist on Glass” and Comsat Angels cover “Independence Day.” The winding lines in the former were described by friend and Sleater-Kinney member Carrie Brownstein as ‘curlicue,’ and are easily reminiscent of the recognizable guitar-forward sound of past S-K projects. This is juxtaposed against a relaxed and effortless pop feel that similarly calls her tour time with Courtney Barnett to mind. Yet despite these parallels, Harkin has got a sound all her own.

“Mist on Glass” opens with the bold one-liner ‘I can guess what you think of me’ and lives up to the lyrical power that it immediately sets the standard for throughout the rest of the song. Harkin’s extensive experience as a multi-instrumentalist colors the composition of this first single, which feels simultaneously straight-forward and meandering, atmospheric and sharp. The music envelops you as it steadily builds to the bridge, where deadpan lines like ‘problems came when you gave it a name’ stop dynamic guitar licks dead in their tracks. From here, any previous sturdiness deteriorates fittingly alongside title-line ‘like mist on glass/pre-disaster.’ 

Cover “Independence Day” features other rising names worth keeping on your radar, including Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak, Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint, and Hayden Thorpe of Wild Beasts. Inspired by the political turmoil in her home country following the 2016 Brexit decision, Harkin found herself returning to Yorkshire’s Comsat Angels’ timeless, anxious lyrics. 

This two-part introduction to Katie Harkin as a soloist serves as a confident, no-frills re-entry into a scene she’s been a part of for years. As she strikes out on her own, Harkin will no doubt be a name to follow. Her time alongside some of the genre’s greatest has set her up for individual success, and if “Mist on Glass” is any indicator, we have a lot of powerful and uniquely informed music to look forward to as she gears up to release more.