Harry Styles review: Harry's House is an unfussy and impressive laid-back epic 

With his new album, Harry's House, Harry Styles has again proven  he's an artist of substance 
Harry Styles review: Harry's House is an unfussy and impressive laid-back epic 

Harry Styles releases Harry's House on Friday, May 20. 

★★★★☆

As the cheeky, charming member of One Direction, Harry Styles had seemed cursed to live out his career as a Gen Z Gary Barlow – a granny’s favourite who could never fully leave behind his days of teen stardom. How extraordinary, then, that he should have bounded so effortlessly from Simon Cowell-approved poppet to Serious Artist and one-person 1970s soft-rock revival.

Splashed with Laurel Canyon guitars and sunset-burnished FM pop, Styles’ third album is a laid-back epic – comfortable in its skin to the point where it all but arrives draped across a divan. And it maintains an extraordinary consistency even as happy-go-lucky Harry skates from the Harry Nilsson comedown pop of As It Was to the Cat Stevens-does-X Factor acoustica celebrated in Matilda.

Harry’s House’s most dazzling quality is the way in which it makes a grand entrance without ever creating an undue fuss. Styles is a global star and embarks on a stadium tour this summer. But, working with regular co-writer Kid Harpoon, he has cooked up a deftly-understated LP, which apparently takes its name from a jazz-influenced Joni Mitchell track (Harry’s House/Centrepiece, from 1975’s The Hissing Of Summer Lawns), and favours beautifully subtle moments instead of look-at-me choruses and glitter-bomb razzmatazz.

This, then, is a record that saunters at the edge of the dance floor, hands in pockets rather than attempting any zany moves. Even Styles’ vocals are a triumph in restraint. Daylight, for instance, finds him cooing gently against a springy indie guitar. 

Harry's House, by Harry Styles.
Harry's House, by Harry Styles.

And on As It Was, his voice remains in that same brittle register as he spins a tale of lockdown paranoia and substance addiction (“Why are you sitting on the floor.. what kind of pills are you on?”).

One Direction were a cultural phenomenon rather than a band anyone ever needs to listen to again. But Styles has parlayed that ephemeral fame into something far more substantial – and on Harry’s House, he shows that, while his reputation as a critically-lauded artist may not be constructed on the sturdiest foundations, he has nonetheless built a career of real heft. Who knows to what heights can ascend?

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