Harry Styles – Harry’s House: hat trick or hard pass?
After a whirlwind two and a half years, Harry Styles seems settled enough to kick back and take us home with Harry’s House.
It has been quite the ride. Since Fine Line’s release he’s headlined Coachella, shacked up with Olivia Wilde, filmed both Don’t Worry Darling and My Policeman, had two tracks top the Top 40, bagged a Grammy, bagged a Brit, and just dropped his biggest chart hit to date – ‘As It Was.’ The exponential rise to rockstardom embodied in his Mick Jagger-esque run down the stairs in a full fur coat at Coachella, Shania Twain in tow.
Harry now has quite the litany of music legends in his entourage. Stevie Nicks, Stormzy, Shania Twain, Lizzo. If I could tell my record industry dad, who I forced to call in and vote for One Direction every Saturday on X factor – 35p a call mind you – that Harry Styles now has Mick Fleetwood advertising his nail polish line, he’d tell me to get lost.
Having recently announced a spontaneous appearance at Brixton’s O2 Academy for one night only, tickets are now being resold online for up to £1,500. It’s safe to say that Harry’s House was one of, if not, the most anticipated album of the year.
What’s clear on the surface of Harry’s House is that Harry doesn’t have much to prove anymore. He’s comfortable, and he’s having fun. His ode to Joni Mitchell’s Harry’s House/Centrepiece is definitely a lot less classic rock than his previous two. The former nods to The Rolling Stones are replaced with far more ethereal, groovy, slightly folky sounds.
Harry kept his hat-trick in the family, working with his usual producers Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson. Although a safe space like this usually provokes more intimate music, it’s apparent that Harry didn’t take too many risks. Yet it seems that the whole point is that he didn’t want to. After the last two years’ rolling successes, he certainly didn’t need to.
Vocally, this album is Harry’s safest. Soothing, no doubt, but notably less adventurous than some of the ballads on Harry Styles and Fine Line. The mid-album track ‘Daydreaming’ finally offers a hint of his ‘Sign of the Times’ style range. But, for the most part, his vocals provide some pretty passive summertime listening.
Lyrically, there’s some convoluted moments, some genius moments, but an overarching sense of authenticity. The potentially patronising “Boyfriends… they take you for granted” manages to come across extremely genuine. However, the aimless listing “Cocaine, side boob, choke her with a sea view” gets dangerously close to Rupi Kaur territory.
The instrumental arrangements of the album are undoubtedly its biggest strength. While I don’t necessarily think this is what your average Harry Styles fan looks out for, it’s almost as if Harry has implored his listeners to consider how much fun you can have with music. His band have managed to strike the perfect balance between eclectic composition and lullaby-like melodies. To paraphrase my flatmate, “it’s like lo-fi study music on crack.”
The opener ‘Music for a Sushi Restaurant’ is certainly a nod to his confidant, Lizzo’s music, who he also invited to the Coachella stage for a surprise Gloria Gaynor karaoke moment. A fun way to start off the album, no doubt. Although the slightly obscure title reminded me of Lorde’s equally confusing Stoned at the Nail Salon. Must be an LA thing.
The second track ‘Late Night Talking’ has been the album’s number one listen on Spotify, after ‘As It Was’, since the release. It’s a mash-up of Bowie’s Let’s Dance-era and Hotel Ugly. The frontrunner on Twitter and TikTok for an upcoming music video.
This mild jazziness continues through to ‘Grapejuice’ until we get to ‘As It Was.’ It’s fair to say while parts of the album could be considered safe and samey, the first single release is anything but. It’s those kind of melancholy, even bleak, lyrics laced into an energetic and uplifting melody that shows how well Harry’s mastered his craft.
‘Daylight’ is very reminiscent of The 1975’s I like it when you sleep sound with a bit of a Tame Impala riff. While ‘Little Freak’ and ‘Matilda’ certainly evolved from Harry’s previous Bibio style tracks, ‘To Be So Lonely’ and ‘Cherry.’
From here it gets a little contentious. ‘Cinema’ is a lot of fun, with a sort of Sky Ferreira sound and some Nile Rogers x CHIC guitar action. An achingly obvious nod to Olivia Wilde and her career, sorry girlies. ‘Daydreaming’ has that similar brassy Lizzo-style sound that indicates the slightly samey nature of the album in places.
‘Satellite’ is totally reminiscent of the One Direction years, whether it’s deliberate or not I’m not too sure. A 1D classic with a dreamy, dancing around a room with 70s interior kind of twist. The final tracks, ‘Boyfriends’ and ‘Love Of My Life’, no doubt strike a win amongst the heartbroken and *Larry Stylinson* theorists alike. Although slower and similar, they pair together pretty beautifully.
They leave a resounding feeling that Harry’s House is the love child of Harry and his comfort in his new life. I’m optimistic we’ll have some more ‘Sign of the Times’, ‘Carolina’, ‘Kiwi’, ‘She’-style, dripping-in-sex, rock-and-roll masterpieces in future. But for now, a summery fuzzy warm listen with slick execution will do.
It’s an album for a smoke session, an album for a boogie, an album for a late summer barbecue. It might not change your life, but it’s somewhat sublime to listen to. And it goes without saying that some of these tracks would make for some insane live listening. To quote my flatmate for a second time, “whatever he sings I’m going to be watching him.”
You can listen to Harry’s House here.