Review: Harry Styles – Harry’s House

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It’s no surprise that Harry Styles chose to open his newest album Harry’s House with a jazzy, larger than life track. “Music for a Sushi Restaurant” is the perfect opener for this latest iteration of Harry’s talent, and was an immediate fan favorite. It fits in well with his past discography as well. Is Harry becoming…predictable?

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You can buy or stream Harry’s House on Apple Music

“As It Was” starts with a piece of a voicemail from Harry’s goddaughter: “Come on Harry, we want to say good night to you!” In the video, this plays as he is seemingly stuck behind a door, and the song itself is about shutting himself out from everyone. It’s the closest we get to true self expression here, and even though it’s a great track for radio, it’s a risky set of lyrics to base everyone’s initial opinion of an album on. Some could say it follows suit from “Sign of the Times”, which is nothing short of gut-wrenching even (and especially) now, with its use of melancholia to pull us in.

What shocks me most about this new album is the amount of references to substances. Cocaine has at least three mentions and it’s clear he’s had a struggle with alcohol as well. Gone are the days of a carefree Harry singing about treating people with kindness or a girl who he wants to bring home to his mom. It seems these past few years have taken their toll on him, and it shows. He hides it pretty well behind the synths and harmonies, and callbacks to 70’s arena rock, but it’s there nevertheless.

Other than glimpses here and there, not much is said here about how Harry’s personal life is going, given the title of the album. Mentions are made of him and his lover riding bikes in New York (“Daylight”), and making breakfast (“Keep Driving”). 

I do love this album. It feels carefree, and will be a summer soundtrack for most of us, surely. The production is perfection, something we’ve come to expect from him. What I think has been missing from Harry’s career as a whole is intimacy. He talks a lot about his experiences in therapy, most recently in his interview with Zane Lowe, but that doesn’t seem to translate to his bodies of work. I truly wonder whether there will be a time when we get a softer, more personal album from Harry, and whether he will stop concealing himself behind power pop.

Harry’s House is a misleading title. It leads us to believe he will finally let us in, finally give us a real, genuine taste of who he is and who he is becoming. But, like his past releases, he sings so little about himself that he seemingly lets us in the foyer only to say, “Thank you so much for coming, hope you can come again soon!” before ushering us out and away from getting too close to him.

4/5

Photo by Lillie Eiger

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Podcast: Ranking the Albums of Katy Perry

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There was a moment in time, not so long ago, when Katy Perry was not only the biggest pop star on the planet, but one of the biggest pop stars of all time. Kiel Hauck is joined by Nadia Alves as they look back on the illustrious and unexpected career of Katy Perry – from unknown Christian artist to everyone’s favorite “bad” girl. The duo discuss the impact of Teenage Dream on pop music at large and debate whether the album is actually her best (spoiler alert: it’s not). They also rank every Katy Perry studio album and list their top 10 Katy Perry songs. Listen in!

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

Hayley Williams and Billie Eilish Steal the Show at Coachella

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If you had told me a year or so ago that Hayley Williams would be performing alongside Billie Eilish, one side of my mouth would say, “No way”, and the other side would say “Makes sense”.

“No way”, because, what a pairing. “Makes sense”, because, what a pairing. Two of the top women in alt music on stage together is nothing short of exciting. And it’s a hell of a way for Hayley to make her first Coachella appearance. But of course, as we’ve come to know, Hayley is always one for surprises.

The afternoon of Coachella Weekend 2, I saw a tweet that said something to the effect of, “Billie is bringing Hayley on stage tonight.” I didn’t think anything of it, not being a particularly heavy Coachella follower, and knowing the Paramore rumor mill has been positively swirling with P6 news. An early morning (or I suppose a late night, depending on your relationship with sleep) for myself was punctuated by the news that Billie in fact did bring Hayley onstage. The rumor was real. I woke Jeremiah up I was so excited. I said “Oh my gosh Billie Eilish brought Hayley on stage and she sang ‘Misery Business.’” It didn’t receive the reaction I expected, being 4 a.m., but any hope of getting back to sleep that night for me was gone.

Someone on TikTok joked that Hayley sang “Misery Business” because MGK’s cover was so terrible. Having not played the track since 2018, I think we can all agree it was a shocker. But I think it’s not only because Hayley is ready to move past these last few years and get back to the crux of Paramore that she brought it back around. I think she chose it specifically to perform with Billie. From what I can see she has taken Billie under her wing in a sense, and I think it’s because Hayley can see her younger self in Billie. She was 14 when she first started Paramore and Billie was 13 when she recorded “Ocean Eyes”. In these later Paramore years, Hayley has been brutally honest about her relationship to fame, and quite honestly her disdain for it, and I think this was her way of letting people know not to mess with Billie.

Whatever the motivation behind it, it was an incredible ending to Billie’s first headlining Coachella set, and an incredible beginning to Hayley and Paramore’s walk back into the public sphere.

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Podcast: Sam Manzella on the 10th Anniversary of Fun’s “Some Nights”

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It’s been 10 years since fun. released Some Nights, which vaulted the band into stardom when hit single “We Are Young” took over the charts in 2012. On this episode of Long Live the Music, Kiel Hauck is joined by MTV News writer Sam Manzella to look back on the album, the impact it made during a transitional moment in popular music, and the quasi-fallout of the band that resulted in very divergent paths for both Jack Antonoff and Nate Ruess. The two also discuss Antonoff’s impact on pop music in the years since the album’s release and the chances of a fun. reunion ever taking place. Take a listen!

You can read Sam’s MTV News retrospective on Some Nights here.

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

Podcast: What Makes a Great Visual Album with Evan Sawdey

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On this episode of Long Live the Music, Kiel Hauck is joined by fellow music journalist Evan Sawdey of PopMatters and Yardbarker to discuss a recent article titled, “The Definitive Ranking of Every Visual Album.” Sawdey shares the genesis of the piece and the qualifications used to define what a visual album actually is. Evan also breaks down the key elements of a great visual album and what it looked like to consume and then rank each piece of work. Kiel and Evan also dive into several visual albums on the list, including those from Beyonce, Justin Bieber, Fall Out Boy, Kanye West, Halsey and much more. Take a listen!

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

Most Anticipated of 2022: Taylor Swift Keeps the Momentum Rolling

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If I’m being completely honest, I am okay with Taylor Swift taking time off. The woman has been arguably the most prolific artist in the world, having released three new albums and two re-releases of past albums in the last two years. While it would be natural to assume she has to be near the point of burning out, there is still always reason to be excited. With four more re-releases scheduled, if she keeps at the same pace she has been going at, the next Taylor’s Version may be only a few months away.

These re-releases made her older material somehow nostalgically refreshing and relevant again despite being listened to thousands of times already. Her “From the Vault” B-Sides would be worthy of a release all on their own, but in this context we can see how she evolved as an artist between albums and how she tested the waters with genre and style before fully jumping in. Whatever her next Taylor’s Version album is, it can’t come soon enough for fans who already know every note by heart.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and is currently braving the coldest of winters, snuggled close to his cat.

Most Anticipated of 2022: The Weeknd Breaks the Dawn

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Okay, so this is kind of a cop out. Dawn FM, the latest album from The Weeknd, dropped last Friday. But I did anticipate it in the week between its announcement and release, so there’s that!

Honestly, my first reaction upon hearing the news was to think, “Didn’t he just drop After Hours?” But then I had the sad realization that it had been almost two years and that this pandemic has now lasted a full album cycle.

But nevertheless, Dawn FM is another stroke of genius from Abel Tesfaye, an artist who continues to paint an unexpected narrative and blur the lines between The Weeknd as a character and Abel as a real human being. Created as a radio broadcast of music and existential ponderings after the events of After Hours, Dawn FM is oddly reflective and pensive as it explores the idea that, just maybe, there is peace to be found in this life, which feels like a completely new note for The Weeknd.

Here in this new context, recent single “Take My Breath” feels alive in new and unexpected ways. Tracks like “How Do I Make You Love Me?”, “”Best Friends”, and “Don’t Break My Heart” carry the kind of longing and questioning we’re used to but inject each track with a stroke of humor. It’s another masterclass in pop excellence, and what I anticipate most at this point is playing it again and again throughout 2022.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Most Anticipated of 2022: A New Album from Paramore (Please?)

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This is my wild card album that I always toss into the Most Anticipated. I got it right with Lorde last year, but I doubt I’ll have the same luck with Paramore. My actual prediction is next year, but it only feels right that they would come back and grace us with another Paramore album after Hayley and Zac have had such blockbuster years with their own solo albums. My other bold prediction is that this will be the final Paramore album. As much as I don’t want that to be true, as Paramore has been a true constant in my life, it feels like a natural ending for what has been an incredible movement in both the scene and modern music as a whole. 

I think that Zac and Hayley will move on to do illustrious things on their own, and they’ll let Paramore rest easy very soon. As for an album? I want it to head back to their scene roots and give us some headbangers, but I know this is almost impossible given the moves they’ve made artistically since 2017’s After Laughter. But at this point, I’m willing to latch on to anything they offer me.

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Podcast: Reacting to “Red (Taylor’s Version)”

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It’s been a week since Taylor Swift blessed us with Red (Taylor’s Version). And we have thoughts! Kiel Hauck is joined by fellow It’s All Dead-ians Kyle Schultz and Nadia Alves to delve into the nooks and crannies of all 30 tracks of this new release. They share takes on the best and most interesting re-recorded songs and weigh in some of the best “From the Vault” tracks that round out the album. Is the 10-minute version of “All Too Well” better than the original? Are there still easter eggs within the album that have yet to be uncovered by Swiftie Sleuths? Who had the best guest appearance on the album? And what album is coming next? All of these questions (and more) are addressed – listen in!

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

Reflecting On: Michelle Branch – The Spirit Room

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A couple of times a year, I find myself spending days at a time inside The Spirit Room. I’ve said it countless times in the two decades since its release, but the debut album from Michelle Branch is perfect. And as it reaches its 20th anniversary, I’ve thought a lot about its legacy, and how the album unexpectedly became a blueprint of sorts.

We’ve talked extensively this year about Sour, the debut from Olivia Rodrigo, and how it so perfectly encapsulates the emotions and experience of adolescence. One of the many things that makes Sour so impressive is Rodrigo’s ability to shape-shift within genre, often tapping into nostalgic pop rock sounds that feel both fresh and familiar. It’s hard to listen to the album and not think of Branch.

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You can buy or stream The Spirit Room on Apple Music

The story of how The Spirit Room came to be back in 2001 has been reported in detail, but it’s still fascinating to think about a teenager operating independently from major label influence and creating an album so different from what was expected from a young female artist at the time. It worked, and what followed was a new wave of young singer-songwriters following in her pop rock footsteps. Even Taylor Swift has spoken of the album’s influence in her own writing.

It was a sound that clearly caught my attention at the time, and Branch’s lonely, bedroom daydream songwriting resonated as well. When I listen to the album now, I’m transported back to a very specific time in my life in the best way. There isn’t another album that captures those feelings quite as well for me. When I hear “Goodbye to You”, I see Branch performing the song from the stage of The Bronze on an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When I hear “All You Wanted” I’m reminded of late night drives in my first car. “Everywhere” transports me back to my freshman dorm room.

For all of these reasons, it was captivating to hear Branch’s 20th anniversary re-recording of the album. Unlike Swift’s current explorations of her past work (which I also love), Branch has allowed the passage of time to change her approach to these tracks. Her voice sounds slightly weathered, the songs have more room to breathe and move at a slightly slower pace. If you close your eyes, you can imagine her playing these songs to a small audience in a smoky lounge room. There’s an innocence that’s missing and it gives the album an entirely new feeling. The fact that it works this well speaks to the timeless beauty of the songwriting.

Last month, I purchased a ticket to Branch’s live stream performance of the album, expecting a full band rendition of the songs I know so well. When the stream began with Branch sitting on a stool, holding an acoustic guitar and strumming her way through “Everywhere”, I was taken aback. But by the opening moments of second track “You Get Me”, I was sold. The songs just work in every context, and in this case, some of them became even more alive with emotion and meaning. 

The early years of the 2000s were a transitional period for popular music, which is perhaps why it feels as though The Spirit Room sometimes gets forgotten in conversations around modern classic albums. It feels out of place when you think about the final gasps of bubblegum pop giving way to the oncoming avalanche of garage rock, hip hop and pop punk. But taken in a vacuum, it’s hard to poke holes in the album. It’s stellar songwriting paired with impeccable production. It moves. It captures hopeless romantic feelings you chase into your adulthood without ever feeling forced or cliché. It opened a new door for young female songwriters to lean into their own individual sounds. It invites you to get lost within it again and again.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.