Harkness rises to The Occasion in his ambitious and adventurous new single — premiering exclusively on Tinnitist.
The opening title cut from the eccentric, eccentric and enigmatic Toronto artist’s upcoming debut album, the majestic orch-rock opus sounds like a musical meeting of the minds attended by Brian Wilson, Todd Rundgren, Polyphonic Spree and Flaming Lips. Grandly arranged and uplifting, the track features a diverse palette of instruments that includes everything from guitar, bass, piano and drums to tuba and steel drums — all assembled and produced by Harkness himself, and all designed to showcase and elevate his cascading vocal harmonies and lyrics that strive for connection and revolution: “There’s hope in this communication,” Harkness promises. “Hey underground, let’s take this town!”
As a self-produced multi-instrumentalist, Harkness, mystically clad in visor and gown, focuses only on real instrumentation to create lush, evocative, deeply human sonic landscapes, with a fresh modern-pop aesthetic. Having quietly honed his craft for over a decade, he is finally ready to share his colourful sonic explorations, which are underpinned by songs that each share a soul bearing, heartfelt intimacy, with an undercurrent of love that extends far beyond the individual.
When asked “why now?” Harkness explains, “after writing and recording for a long time I was finally able to really tap into the very core of my being. Throughout the recording process I have had to overcome many personal struggles, and as the world today appears to have incredible challenges ahead, I feel the time is right for the spirit of this music.” His emergence has also been encouraged by L.A. musician and Beck collaborator Roger Manning Jr. who, having been handed some Harkness demos, was blown away and has since remained a consistent source of encouragement.
Nothing short of ambitious, The Occasion begins with its title track, which combines a variety of musical ‘trips’ that journey through various inner and outer states of destruction and rebirth, seeking revolutionary truth and freedom. Commencing with a violent explosion (the sound of a piano dropping, and an acoustic guitar being thrown at a piano harp), the song sails through passages of soulful West Coast pop harmonies and strings, brooding cinematic big band menace, Stravinsky-esque overtures and driving indie rock.
Album closer Moonspell begins as a reverie that poignantly evokes a locked down COVID planet caught in a massive hex. “Some other day we’ll wake our world from slumber,” Harkness pines over a radiant, melancholic arrangement. After passing through orchestral and choral tumult, the song then returns us to a place where we can once again privilege ourselves to imagine “dreamy days of nothing wrong.” In another standout track, Lure of the Pollen, low-range tubas and bassoons flirt with flutes and marimbas, creating a unique and vibrant sound picture that conjures a passionate interplay of instinctual energies, of those butterflies in the stomach that occur during early romance.
Harkness wears his visor and gown to reflect a profound and life-changing experience from his early 20s, in which he “was shown what appeared to be the blissful advantages of leading an imageless life.” As a result, Harkness has liberated himself from the trappings of the capitalist image economy, instead choosing to let his music do the talking. Despite the warm five-part vocal harmonies and sophisticated hooks, there is a dark undercurrent brewing underneath the surface of much of this music, a reflection of the chaotic division expressed throughout the world around us. With a firm belief in the oneness of humanity, Harkness feels compelled to share his creations. “I hope that while listening to these songs people at once feel the urgency and desperation of our time, but are inspired and emotionally moved enough to take steps in their own life to help improve our collective world.”