The Bad Penny Review | Harry Styles’ Fine Line

When Fine Line released in December 2019 it burst onto the scene and became the third-highest debut for an album that year, and with good reason. The album is a rousing and stylish pop record that wears all of its retro-rock inspirations on its sleeve. Rock royalty Stevie Nicks revealed the album has been what she has been primarily listening to throughout the lockdown, proclaiming “Way to go H. It is your Rumours”.

Fine Line Cover Art

So given that, how does the album hold up to the Fleetwood Mac classic? While it doesn’t maintain the same level of consistent quality in all of its 12 tracks, the vast majority offer a delightful and infectious romp through the sounds of rock and pop, both old and new. You can feel the constant drive to create great moments in every track; with catchy hooks, dynamic song structures and superb production. The album is brimming with confidence and draws you in from the beginning through to the end.

The opening track ‘Golden’ launches straight in with a storming progressive indie-pop song that lays bare his 70s and aforementioned Fleetwood Mac influences but unlike his first solo album it clearly frames Styles as the main attraction. ‘Canyon Moon’ also highlights his folk-pop inspirations with its sunny disposition pitching a tent and setting up a campfire by the time it gets to the first chorus.

Other tracks like the standout ‘Sunflower Vol. 6’ sparkle and shimmer with wavy layers of electronic buzz and jangling guitars. Great vocal moments such as exaggerated breaths before verses, layered harmonies and the joyous and silly outro give the song plenty of memorable moments. This track shows Style’s at his most stylish and confident as he commands the dazzling array of sounds and layers with ease.

‘Lights Up’ blends pop rock with the glimmering shades of indie and balances them out with a bombastic chorus. Ticking the box for a big summer banger is ‘Watermelon Sugar’ with its simple guitar based underbelly exploding after the first verse into a raucous big band anthem that practically demands sunny skies.

Meanwhile, funky pop grooves and piercing guitar solos are aplenty on the single ‘Adore You’, paired with themes of unwavering devotion that invoke memories of early Bruno Mars mega-hits, while the last of the singles to appear on the record, ‘Falling’, features a stripped back instrumental for its reflective subject matter and tries to offers a change of pace. However, the song is a more forgettable pop ballad, lacking the defined sense of character on most of the other tracks.

Lyrically the album often follows an honest and open approach, ‘Cherry’ is a bouncy slice of indie folk that laments an obviously personal break-up, ‘To Be So Lonely’ demonstrates that commitment to looking inward over a sparse and fun instrumental while Styles documents his relationship failings.

The guitar heavy ‘She’ is an atmospheric and airy track that proves infectious, despite it lacking the lyrical quality to offer insight into the concept on display, with its soaring guitars and great vocals.

The thematically self-explanatory, ‘Treat People With Kindness’, sees Styles at his most Magical Mystery Tour. Sporting a powerful vocal performance that holds the larger than life instrumental and backing vocals together the song soars and aims to take all bystanders along with it, even if it does often veer into clichéd territory.

The title track ‘Fine Line’ closes the album with a spacious, melancholy ballad that builds steadily with expanding instrumentation and vocal melodies, until the spectacular introduction of a stellar brass section gives both the song and album a great sense of release.

Overall, Fine Line is a very solid second offering from an artist carving their sound out of 60s and 70s influences and using them to create fun, energetic and honest music for a whole new generation.

 

Now available with your library membership to stream and download on Freegal: https://corkcitylibraries.freegalmusic.com/

 

By John Hayes

 

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