For someone that has so many eyes on his every step, statement, and piece of music, Harry Styles has always maintained an impressive, and refreshing, amount of personal privacy. Living and growing under some of the industry’s brightest spotlights, he has only allowed out as much (or little) as he desires to, leaving an aura of mystique that perhaps draws listeners to probe and confront his music that much more. In this sense, to be allowed inside into the metaphorical Harry’s House on his third full-length effort is quite the treat.
The album attempts to translate the experience of a day in his flickering mind, conveying profound elaborations on simple passing thoughts, basking in his multitude of musical influences, and all with the uninhibited tone of a conversation on the living room couch. It may not always dig deep beneath the skin, but Harry’s ability to transform his seemingly simple emotions into vivid, expansive musical microcosms is impressively consistent, and ensures that the tour through Harry’s House is, at the very least, one worth checking out.
Take the opening “Music For a Sushi Restaurant” for example, an unrestrained, nonsensical burst of sweet ’70s horn sections, impetuous romantic proclamations, cute and clever food references, and even scat singing. It’s a complete declaration of infatuation that not only gets listeners on their feet but sets the tone for the rest of the album’s recurring focus: all things love.
At moments, his love is high above the clouds, under the binding spell of his lover, and the party picks up in mood and intensity accordingly. The summer-friendly “Daydreaming” jolts the energy level up as it builds a steady and infectious groove off its classic disco-funk sample and candid proclamations of Harry’s otherworldly romance. “Grapejuice” channels similar love-stricken sentiments with a quality of escapism, fantasizing about an escapade with his partner and a bottle of 1982 set over luscious, layered bass-lines and charming retro vocal effects.
At other moments, reflections on past relationships and communication issues surface as cracks in the narrative, moving the party to a private conversation. His picture-memory images of golf swings and crystal balls on “Little Freak” detail the snapshots of a relationship slipping away, soundtracked by a healthy dose of vocal harmonies and sentimentality. The physical and emotional distance between his lover is also indicated most apparently in the melancholic “Daylight”, characterized by the outburst of drums and a wall of guitars on the hook.
In both these moments of highs and lows, Styles never dives too deep into the intricacies and complexities of his emotions and narratives, remaining at a comfortable distance. It leaves certain songs desiring more substance than aesthetic, but also makes sense given that many of the deeper references and stories behind the tracks on Harry’s House seem personal to Styles.
The only real exception is the plucked folk-acoustic ballad “Matilda”, an emotional gut-punch of a halfway point to the album. Sensitive, encouraging, and most of all empathetic, the message is for anyone who finds themself in the same position as Roald Dahl’s fictional character. It’s one of Harry’s most beautifully crafted songs to date, a reflection of songwriting maturity and awareness of what listeners may need to hear.
Perhaps in a similar sense, the album as a whole encapsulates the kind of music that this summer season needs. It’s unapologetically romantic, expertly produced, and sweet on the ears, with just enough depth and artistic flair to pull listeners below the surface level. And this wide appeal accomplishes exactly what Harry wanted to create: a sense of familiarity and comfort not based on any tangible location, but rather on the mindset, people, and music that we surround ourselves with. Harry’s House is just Harry’s version of this, and it’s undeniably fun to be inside of.