“We’ll find a house and a garden somewhere / Along a country road a piece“, sang Joni Mitchell on 1975’s “Harry’s House/Centerpiece.”A little cottage on the outskirts / Where one can truly find liberation.” The Laurel Canyon icon’s experimental song, mixing jazz and folk, might have referred to real estate, but for Harry Styles – whose third album takes its title from Mitchell – home is a figurative place.
The former One Direction star”small chalet on the outskirtsis not on any map, but rather in his head. His new album, “Harry’s House,” is an exploration of his definition of home, something he started thinking about when the pandemic forced his usually on-the-go lifestyle to a screeching halt. Instead of finding release in a pretty country residence, the record posits that feeling can come from a state of mind and the people around you.
“I’ve never been a fan of change / But I’ll follow you anywheresings Styles over the sparkling ’80s pop of “Late Night Talking,” which battles lead single “As It Was” for the record’s brightest bop. To prove his point, he offers a glamorous suggestion and one that is, well, decidedly unglamorous: “If it’s Hollywood or Bishopsgate / I’m coming too.”
Wherever it is – LA, London, somewhere in between – “Harry’s House” is full of the comforts of home comforts. He sips”a bottle of redin the garden on ‘Grapejuice’, a Beatles-sounding song played through the sonic equivalent of a vintage filter (and is the latest continuation of Harry Styles’ fruity universe after ‘Watermelon Sugar’, ‘Cherry ‘ and ‘Kiwi’ ). On the beautiful and folky ‘Matilda’, he is warmly welcoming, reassuring: “You arrive just in time, make your tea and toast”, while the sweet singing lists of ‘Keep Driving’ unfold picturesque scenarios of ‘maple syrup, coffee, pancakes for two / Hash browns, egg yolk – I will always love you”.
Styles described this record as his “biggest and funniest, yet by far his most intimate”. It balances these tales of domesticity and romance with songs that explode into the heart of old-school funk, disco, and soul, but never stray into pastiche, homage, or retro bon knockoff territory. market. The album opener ‘Music For A Sushi Restaurant’ appears with a diva-worthy moan from the star that quickly dissolves into a slinky bass line and, shortly after, a peacock trumpet melody that feels both flashy and festive.
“Daylight” offers cut soul and R&B, while remaining understated as its creator swoons in beloved lines like “If I was a bluebird, I’d fly to you / You’d be the spoon / I’d dip you in honey so I could stick to you”. But when he stops singing, the rhythm section takes over, splashing percussion filling the speakers alongside big, bouncy bass. “Cinema” takes things to a nighttime disco, Styles weaving through bright but dark layers as he sings of insecurity and lust (“I just think you’re cool / I love your movies / You think I’m cool too? / Or am I too into you?”).
‘Satellite’, meanwhile, ventures into outer space. Sci-fi beeps drift through electronic drones and a soft “ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh“sing along, feeling like you’re floating in the milky way with the singer as he narrates:”Spinning around waiting for you to pull me in / I can see you there alone / Don’t you know I’m right here?“It’s musically one of the most interesting songs Styles has done so far, swirling around in a galactic storm in its final throes.
‘Harry’s House’ is arguably Styles’ best record to date and showcases a musician comfortable and confident in what he wants to create right now. It gives the album a warm feel that makes the songs feel conversational and close, like you’re sitting in your own house catching up with the star. Most of the time, it gives a brilliant effect, like on the finger-picked guitar, the relationship review of “Boyfriends”, but sometimes there are lyrics that make you cringe with your whole body. “Somehow you got some kind of paranoia / A wet dream just hanging on,“, he reflects on the star-studded folk of ‘Little Freak’, while ‘Cinema’ touts the line: “You burst when we get intimate.”
Some bluergh– inducing moments aside, the musician’s third album feels like a magical thing – a record you want to settle into until you know every nook and cranny in every detail. Home, for Styles, may be a state of mind, but with ‘Harry’s House’, he made an album that sounds like “small cottage“Mitchell sang once; a place where you”can really find liberation“, relax and process the details of your day.
Release date: May 20
Label: Erskine/Columbia Records Records