Harry Styles' Second Album is More Than Just a Fine Line
Written by : Danish Zainal
Edited by : Erin Sam and Dale Bashir
Harry Styles returns with a pre-Christmas release that shows a more fun and artistic side with mixed results. ‘Fine Line’ is a good introduction to Harry’s music and appeals to pop, folk rock and pop-rock audiences. The soul, funk, psychedelic pop influences are strong with this one.
The production value for this album is great and it is worth mentioning that the instrumentation is varied and diverse. Apparently, this is not Harry’s usual style of music but props to him for going into a new (albeit, slightly) direction. From the singles, my personal favourites are ‘Watermelon Sugar’ and ‘Adore You’. The former moves at a steady pace complemented by vocal harmonies and hand-claps in a tasteful way. I really dig the bass-line and brass section in this track; it reminded me of Gorillaz’ stuff on ‘Plastic Beach’. The latter includes some neat synth riffs and guitar lines bringing to mind Daft Punk’s ‘Random Access Memories’ era. The steady beat and the guitar riffs are pretty catchy, especially in the chorus.
Based on the 12 songs in this album, there are a few tracks that stood out to me in particular. My personal favourites are ‘Cherry’ and ‘She’. In ‘Cherry’, Harry Styles explores a more personal, introspective side and showcases a more folk pop sound a la Grizzly Bear/Fleet Foxes. It can also be stated that ‘Cherry’ is a bit of a throwback to Harry’s first album opener ‘Meet Me in the Hallway’ due to the folk sound. The vocal harmonies are quite strong in this track and a nice transition after ‘Lights Up’. The spoken word outro reminds me of M83’s ‘Wait’ and was done by Styles ex-girlfriend which he mentioned in his interview with Zane Lowe.
Next, ‘She’ employs a cool synth intro akin to Pink Floyd’s ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ phase. I really like the instrumentation in this one as the combination of piano, guitars, keyboards and drums reminds me of Tame Impala slightly. Besides that, notable mentions go to the tracks ‘Sunflower, Vol. 6’, ‘Lights Up’ and ‘Canyon Moon’.
The album opener ‘Golden’ really showcases the Fleetwood Mac influence with good instrumentation, catchy vocals and it literally made me tap my feet. ‘Lights Up’ is well visualized for a single with smooth bass, drums and catchy keyboards. In my opinion, the guitar work and vocals on this song stood out in particular. ‘Falling’ has Harry doing Elton John with the piano being the centrepiece instrument of this track as well as good vocals.
To start off the second half of the album, ‘To Be So Lonely’ flows well from the previous song with Jack Jones-like guitar and it cannot be understated how good the production quality is on this track. The eleventh track ‘Treat People with Kindness’ recalls Abba with cool vocals, funky sound and smooth transitions. For the album closer ‘Fine Line’, I thought it was pretty calming and the folk sound seemed very suitable to tie up loose ends. The brass section in this song reminds me a bit of the brass section in the song ‘Chicago’ by Sufjan Stevens. The lyrics and outro stood out as well and huge props to the producers for the music quality on display here.
Based on my analysis of ‘Fine Line’, the general pacing flows well; as soul, psychedelic pop and funk into his repertoire of folk rock/pop songs. From a non-fan perspective, the album was really easy to listen to and that is always a good sign. Besides that, I believe the strongest tracks from this album are ‘Lights Up’, ‘Cherry’ and ‘She’. I would recommend this album to fans of pop/pop-rock with sprinkles of soul, funk, folk rock and psychedelic pop!