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SIMON AND SAM
TALK HARRY

Simon Glickman: After early listens, we both love the Harry Styles record (embedded below), and I thought it would be interesting to frame this as a conversation between the two of us since we’re from different generations.

Samantha Hissong: I’m obsessed.

SG: It seems to me that this should be part of the conversation about contenders for an Album of the Year Grammy nomination. In addition to the high quality of the writing and playing on the individual songs, it really feels cohesive as an album.

SH: And a modern take on an old-school rock album. I honestly love it from start to finish. Maybe my millennial peers will cast me overboard for this belief, but I miss album listening. I truly believe that an album should be listened to from start to finish with the songs acting like chapters in a book, as they do on Harry Styles. That’s how it used to be. The singles-driven mentality belongs to the attention-deficit goldfish, in my opinion, and it’s the mark of a listener who doesn’t appreciate art. Diving into a new album was once generally viewed as an event. There was a ritualistic nature to it, but hey, that’s why I still collect vinyl. Speaking of which, this thing would sound overwhelmingly lovely on vinyl.

SG: You’re an old soul.

“The strings on ‘From the Dining Table’ bring an elegance to a song that starts off saying, ‘Woke up alone in this hotel room, played with myself. Where were you? Fell back to sleep. I got drunk by noon. I’ve never felt less cool.’ You’re gonna find me quoting this album a lot.”—Sam

SH: Harry is in a really unique position. He was at the forefront of the biggest boy band of the social-media age. Because of platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, the members of One Direction were able to nurture their fans and explore direct engagement in a way that had never been done before. That gives Harry power, and I think it would be really cool if this album aids in shifting that singles-driven mentality that has become second nature to today's young adults. The dark side of social media (and, frankly, digital downloads and streaming) is seen in my generation's need for instant gratification. You can't blame them for consuming the way that they do (although I try to at times). I think and hope that Harry could be part of changing the conversation. 

SG: From your lips… The sound and feel certainly mark a departure from the status quo. The influences are impeccable, though the record never feels derivative to me. But it does have the vibe of some of my favorite things: Bowie, Queen, Badfinger, Elton John, T. Rex, late-period Beatles, James Taylor

SH: “Two Ghosts,” “Only Angel,” “Kiwi” and “From the Dining Table” all impressed me for different reasons. The last one's really honest.

SG: “From the Dining Table” is my favorite right now. That honesty you talk about is striking throughout.

SH: I have a feeling that will not be most people's favorite. But I listen to Conor Oberst and Tom Waits and Elliott Smith, so I'm a sucker for the raw, and I totally understand why you love it.

SG: It’s raw emotionally, but the orchestration and vocals give it a very refined presentation, and the contrast is lovely.

SH: I agree. The strings on that one are so well-timed and bring an elegance to a song that starts off saying, “Woke up alone in this hotel room, played with myself. Where were you? Fell back to sleep. I got drunk by noon. I’ve never felt less cool.” You’re gonna find me quoting this album a lot. This is the perfect launching pad for him to explore the creative waves that have clearly been crashing inside him for a while. And the arena-rock tracks, “Only Angel” and “Kiwi,” bring playfulness into the mix and show a Harry that isn't taking himself too seriously. They make the set more layered, and less boxed-in.

 
“To make something so full of air and warmth in the
present pop-music moment is ballsy.”—Simon

SG: We’ve been geeking out on “Sign of the Times” and “Sweet Creature” since they came out. Let’s break out some of the other songs you mentioned. “Two Ghosts” is definitely a standout. “We’re not who we used to be” is probably one of those lines that people will pull apart, given the carefree, naughty image Harry had in 1D. But here he seems to really plug into some serious romantic pain. And those woozy, George Harrison-style slide guitar lines just destroy me.

SH: “Two Ghosts” is certainly special. If someone else performed it, I could hear it as a country song.

SG: I had the exact same thought.

SH: It really tells a story. And my god, “We’re just two ghosts standing in the place of you and me, trying to remember how it feels to have a heartbeat” really elicited a quivery gasp out of me. And there’s “Meet Me in the Hallway”—the clearest representation of a cry for help on the album. What in particular is he crying about? We don’t know and we may never know, but it's so damn relatable. You don’t need to know what or who he’s describing, but a ravenous longing to “get better” is something everyone feels at one point or another. The fact that he decided to kick the album off with this song is brave and it really sends a message of “my heart’s on my sleeve; take it or leave it.” If we’re talking influences, the ambient nature of “Meet Me in the Hallway” seems reminiscent of Pink Floyd to me.

“Maybe my millennial peers will cast me overboard for this, but I miss album listening... Harry could be part of changing the conversation.”—Sam

SG: I also gotta say I really like the way the whole thing sounds. It's an old-school real record. When the band kicks in it feels super-live, and on the quieter songs you can hear so much texture in the acoustics and vocals. Gotta give a shout-out to Jeff Bhasker—who won a Producer of the Year Grammy shortly ago, and whose sonic vision guides the whole thing—and his team. To make something so full of air and warmth in the present pop-music moment is ballsy.

SH: 100%. There’s nothing else out there that sounds like it.

SG: And can we talk about those vocals? He’s a really impressive singer, technically and emotionally.

SH: I wouldn’t kick him out of bed... or off my phone, for that matter.

SG: Fair enough.


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