wed 30/11/2022

Album: Harry Styles - Harry's House | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Harry Styles - Harry's House

Album: Harry Styles - Harry's House

Mellow-funkin' and often likeable third album from the One Direction star

Boy, you turn me

Harry Styles’ previous two albums sounded like someone rifling pleasantly through the history of pop and rock, but always genially and politely. More entertaining than his scalpels-ready critics wished when One Direction paused in 2016, those albums still didn’t fully hold together as bodies of work. Harry’s House does.

It’s also more middle-of-the-road, albeit in a self-aware and musically sussed way.

The nearest historical equivalent to Styles’ career is probably Robbie Williams, but whereas Williams went off on bizarre tangents that somehow usually worked, Styles is smoother. Even more so now. His new album’s sound, co-created with longterm collaborators Tyler Johnson and Kid Harpoon, is partly grounded in the loungier end of Seventies funk artists such as Slave or The Blackbyrds, seasoned with a touch of Harry Nilsson kitsch, and tempered with the contemporary sensibilities of Christine and the Queens and The 1975 (a much more obscure but on-point reference is wafty Canadian indie artist Homeshake’s 2017 album Fresh Air).

What sets the album apart are the lyrics which are quirky, specific and often interesting, rather than the bland platitudes of so many of Styles’ peers. Cases in point would be the concerned observations (about an ex-loved one?) on “Matilda” or the impressionist list-wordage of “Keep Driving”, one of the album’s stand-outs, two minutes and twenty seconds of gentle potency and thought-inducing imagery.

The best song, though, has to be the chart-topping single “As It Was”, an almost perfect pop number, full of longing (perhaps for times when Styles was unhindered by the relentlessness of superstardom). Another joyfully fun cut is the everything-but-the-kitchen sink groove of opener “Music for a Sushi Restaurant” which rides a pared-back jazz bass motif, over which Styles fully embraces the “shoobie-doo”s.

Elsewhere there are plenty of straight love songs. He’s happy to be soppy, as on closer “Love of My Life”, and one song, a late night funk smoocher called “Cinema”, seems to be about his current paramour, the actress Olivia Wilde. Odes to lost lovers feature too, calmly stated and pensive, as on the woozy, squelchy “Daylight”.

Harry’s House doesn’t sound in any way urgent. Why would it? It’s the cosseted sound of a young multimillionaire playing with ideas, but it’s also a leisurely listen with enough personal zip and pop pep to be partly persuasive.

Below: Watch the video for "As It Was" by Harry Styles

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