Welcome to Harry’s House, Harry Styles’ Most Self-Assured and Thoughtfully Constructed Album to Date

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This week, in an interview with Apple Music, Harry Styles mentioned a 1973 Japanese pop album, Hoson Houseas a reference for his third LP, Harry’s House (out today, May 20th). It was the debut record from Haruomi Hosono, a dreamy, genre-fluid time capsule, and the sort of collection one might hear these days playing on vinyl as the soundtrack to an upscale daytime party in the Hollywood Hills.

Whether Hoson House acted as more of a sonic reference or just title inspiration, Harry’s House (which could also be seen as a nod to a 1975 Joni Mitchell tune), Styles has once again found himself a time traveler, shrugging on and peeling off ’70s and ’80s sounds.

Harry Styles announced his presence with a rock star rollout for his self-titled solo debut, and solidified himself as one of the most interesting and listenable pop-rock stars of the era with his sophomore, Grammy-winning entry, Fine Line. If, in those entries, he was trying on vintage aesthetics like he was looking for the perfect thrifted denim jacket, here he acts more as a prism, embracing and refracting artists like Prince (“Music For a Sushi Restaurant”) through his own comfortable lens.

That’s the core of Harry’s House, if the 13 songs and 41 minutes were to be distilled into one: it’s a peek into daily life, albeit a thoughtfully-curated one. Styles had described Fine Line as a record about having sex and feeling sad; Harry’s Housethen, is a record about having sex, making eggs, and feeling pretty okay.

The international star has always seemed quite fixated on the passage of time in his solo work — “As It Was,” the current chart-topper that preceded the album, continued that very trend — and he continues to dig his heels in on tracks like the bright “Late Night Talking.” “I’ve never been a fan of change/ But I’d follow you to any place/ If it’s Hollywood or Bishopsgate.”

Styles is “in an LA mood” for what feels like most of the record, which is only fitting for his current stage of life. He’s entrenched himself in Laurel Canyon archives and attitudes, and has Hollywood buzzing almost as much over his burgeoning movie star billability as over his music.

The credits on Harry’s House are sparse — the slimmest of any Styles album to date. He reunited with frequent collaborators Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson almost exclusively, and the narrowness of the circle he built when constructing Harry’s House feels anything but stiffing here. “Daydreaming” arrives like an answer to Fine Line’s “Treat People With Kindness,” horns and all. Standout “Cinema,” which receives a lift from John Mayer on guitar, is an indulgent, sensual slice of domesticity.

Harry Styles in 10 Songs

Harry Styles in 10 Songs

Editor’s Pick

Harry Styles in 10 Songs

There are two ways to listen to Harry’s House. The first is to take a cursory walk through each room of the home he’s built, which will provide a perfectly enjoyable listening experience with a record that doesn’t let the listener settle too easily. The second is to spend time with the lyrics, the equivalent of exploring a bookshelf, flipping through a photo album, and opening drawers and closets throughout the home. Styles has peppered the album with details that do make this feel like a more personal outing with the 28-year old star.

There are perfectly fine turns of phrase scattered throughout, and others that lean more towards platitudes. “If I were a bluebird, I’d fly to you,” he says on “Daylight,” not exactly breaking new ground; “Hashbrown, egg yolk, I will always love you,” he offers on “Keep Driving.”

There are more certainly profound moments to be found, like the gentle, conversational “Matilda,” a comforting lullaby for someone disconnected from their family. “You showed me a power that is strong еnough to bring sun to the darkest days/ It’s none of my business, but it’s just been on my mind,” he assures the listener.

Then, in the aforementioned “Cinema,” he re-appropriates his own insecurities, letting himself share his internal monologue with the knowledge that everything will work out just fine. “I just think you’re cool/ I dig your cinema/ Do you think I’m cool too?/ Or am I too into you?”

Even so, for all the talk of intimacy, Styles keeps his cards fairly close to his chest, as he’s known to do. “Boyfriends,” with a title that seemed to veer into the territory of sexuality and labels Styles has publicly resisted, is instead a vague lament bemoaning the way boyfriends often take their partners for granted. Styles doubled down by mentioning in the interview with Apple Music that the track was at least partially inspired by relationships he ‘s observed in the lives of his sister and her friends her.

Album closer “Love Of My Life,” meanwhile, could arguably be the track that hits hardest emotionally, despite the more explicit sadness expressed lyrically on “Matilda” or the chaos of “Satellite.” The slow build of “Love Of My Life” and Styles’ layered vocals provide something of a cinematic ending to Harry’s Housea La La Land vignette that asks — what could we have been, if everything had been different? “It’s not what I wanted, to leave you behind,” he promises, just before a light piano ushers us into the record’s equivalent of a fade to black.

For anyone who, like this writer, took their first listen through the album on a platform that loops automatically, it can almost be jarring to be tossed back into the bombastic and ostensibly joyful opener of “Music For a Sushi Restaurant.” It’s an album that calls for a brief moment to come back to earth at its conclusion, adhering to the Marion McPherson suggestion of, “Let’s just sit with what we heard.”

Harry’s House was constructed board by board, and, ultimately, it’s a lovely place to spend time in. Styles is making the music he wants to make — for this album, he specifically mentioned wanting to create a window into his day-to-day experience his, whether in the more literal and geographical sense, or in his internal life his.

Even so, there are some doors that are still closed. It’s only fair — this is his house his, and we are just the lucky visitors. What a joy to be invited in at all, with the lingering promise that Harry Styles will continue to share corners of his home his with us.

Essential Tracks: “Cinema” “Music For a Sushi Restaurant,” “Love Of My Life”

Harry’s House Album Artwork:

Harry's House artwork

Harry’s House artwork

Welcome to Harry’s House, Harry Styles’ Most Self-Assured and Thoughtfully Constructed Album to Date
Mary Siroky

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