Harry Styles – Fine Line (2019) [FLAC 24bit/44,1kHz]

Harry Styles – Fine Line (2019)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 46:37 minutes | 540 MB | Genre: Pop
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Columbia

Harry Styles has chosen to use his superpowers for good and not evil. These powers were vested in him by the superstar status of One Direction, which with each passing month sets new records for longest hiatus ever, even as its members meander in multiple directions. The most satisfying of these detours has been Styles’ full immersion in an era that predates him by a few generations, the mellow gold of the 1970s, which, when he released his eponymous solo debut two and a half years ago, made for quite an interesting dichotomy between his fan base and his bank of influences. It was, essentially, Dad-rock for girls. You remember that saying about the men not knowing, but the little girls understanding? Well, the men would have gotten Styles’ initial solo music just fine, if any of them had shown up for the shows. The seats were filled anyway.

After debuting with a solo album that showed great promise and staked a claim for him as a serious pop force outside of One Direction, Harry Styles changed things up on 2019’s Fine Line. Despite working with some of the same people who helped him tap into classic pop and rock influences on his debut, this time around the range of genres Styles dips into has grown to include the kind of warm ’70s-inspired funk of Childish Gambino’s “Awaken, My Love!” on the lovely “Watermelon Sugar,” the expansive baroque chamber folk of Bon Iver on the title track, happily rustic Americana (“Canyon Moon”), and up-tempo Mark Ronson-style retro soul (“Treat People With Kindness”). There’s no epic centerpiece like “Sign of the Times,” no rambling, strutting rock & roll, but there is a much smoother sound overall thanks to the buffed-to-a-gleaming-shine production. Indeed, a large chunk of the album sounds like it was designed to fade into the background as it streams on repeat. Tracks like “Lights Up” and “Cherry” are inoffensive and sweet, only saved from the skip button by the always impressive vocals. Styles proves again that he’s a first-rate singer, able to express melancholy or joy with the same charming ease and disarming power. It’s too bad his producers didn’t always give him a more interesting background. One of the songs that does stand out is “Sunflower, Vol. 6,” a bubbling electro-pop trifle produced by Greg Kurstin featuring some nice electric sitar and clavinet work. It’s one of the few tracks where Styles loosens up and has some fun, something that happened quite often on his debut. Apart from that song and a few others that really connect — like the sleek and streamlined “Golden,” “Watermelon Sugar,” and the dramatic (also very Gambino-styled) late-night soul ballad “She” — most of the album feels it’s on cruise control, when a Harry Styles album should pop with fun and excitement. Maybe it’s a matter of finding the styles and sounds that really work for him, then digging into them in order to come up with his own take on them. He certainly talks like he wants to make music that stands the test of time and really matters to people; if that’s ever going to happen, he’ll need to make records that go beyond pleasant and enjoyable. Despite the handful of songs that touch on his potential for greatness, Fine Line isn’t quite there yet. ~ Tim Sendra


1. Golden
2. Watermelon Sugar
3. Adore You
4. Lights Up
5. Cherry
6. Falling
7. To Be So Lonely
8. She
9. Sunflower, Vol. 6
10. Canyon Moon
11. Treat People With Kindness
12. Fine Line