After an unexpected announcement of a One Direction hiatus last March, the most famous of the group, Harry Styles, has been filling his time with acting work on the upcoming film Dunkirk, and has just released his debut solo record.
Meet Me in the Hallway opens with self-titled album with crisp, relaxed Pink-Floyd style acoustic guitars – a much more alternative direction than many would have expected from the singer. The chorus repeats the line “Gotta get better” giving the song a pop edge, while also highlighting Styles’ dynamic range.
Acoustic guitars are at the forefront throughout the album. Carolina has a deep south country feel with scratchy violin, guitar and rhythm shuffles in the vein of Beck and a slick bluesy guitar solo. Sweet Creature, on the other hand, has sweetly picked guitars much like Laura Marling’s latest offering, while delivering a vocal melody similar to Ed Sheeran in the verses. Ever Since New York and closer From the Dining Table also contain this indie acoustic vibe, using interesting chord progressions, subtle but cinematic strings, and continuously smooth melodies, showcasing his vocal maturity.
Kiwi is Styles at his most raw and energetic. It could soon be a pub rock classic with its gritty blues vibe that could fall into the same category as The White Stripes or The Hives, as Only Angel packs in another catchy chorus “She’s an angel – WOOHOO!” over scatty drums and Rolling Stones-esque guitar work.
All of the previously mentioned songs are strong, interesting and memorable, without feeling forced. But the strongest track is undoubtedly Two Ghosts. Again, Styles utilises the acoustic guitar and southern country aesthetic, and contains the most effortlessly sweet melody, while highlighting the lyrics “We’re not who we used to be, we’re just two ghosts standing in the place of you and me”.
Woman has a sassy but slouchy feel, with low piano bass notes, and sampled vocals repeating throughout, and lead single Sign of the Times is a bit of a bloated X-Factor, everything-including-the-kitchen-sink kind of song, with over the top choirs and strings, all of which distract from Styles’ falsetto chorus refrain. Neither song fits well in the track-listing.
Overall, Harry Styles has created a record which no-one could have really expected. He’s shown us his talents were massively underused in One Direction, and could well be the most unlikely of saviours, by bringing guitar music back to the mainstream.