Friday, September 1st, 2017

Harry Styles – Two Ghosts

I’m not sure this score merits that big of a smile, but maybe that’s why people like him.

Julian Axelrod: I’ve been reading Teddy Wayne’s The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, about a young pop star who finds fame and fortune before he hits puberty. It’s a sad, lonely story about isolation: How can you have a normal life, much less a normal relationship, when you’ve lived your formative years in the public eye? “Two Ghosts” evokes the same themes; while it’s ostensibly a breakup song, it doesn’t make me think about Taylor or Louis or whoever he’s addressing. When I hear it, I picture Harry alone in a million hotel rooms. I think of him sitting through press junkets, telling the same story over and over. And I wonder if he remembers what it’s like to not be famous. Styles has cited bands like Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac as inspirations, artists he listened to with his father growing up. And this song doesn’t hide its rosy view of the past; at its core, it’s is an old-school country weeper delivered straight into the bathroom mirror. Even more than “Sign of the Times,” this is the sound of one man set adrift, trying to bridge the gap between the present and his simpler past — a solo venture in every way.

Nellie Gayle: Harry Styles is the most convincingly genuine pop star on the market right now, if you ask me. Cheeky, guarded but kind, a jokester whose main relationship with the press is pranking his middle-aged, B list celeb friends for the delight of radio and late night TV. It’s this facade that underscores an album full of sweet, insightful love songs. ‘Two Ghosts’ is exemplary of why his debut solo album is a risky but delightful turn. There is no catchy pop hook, and none of the album really delivers 1D style jams. Instead, Styles takes a risk and bets on the emotional insight he’s smart enough to withhold from mainstream press. Two Ghosts is reminiscent of Ryan Adams – simple, heartfelt, and driven by vocals that ring with sincerity.

Alfred Soto: Harry Styles could do American AOR better than Kings of Leon or anyone, and I’d rather listen to him sing this generic ode to feeling nothing at all than Chris Martin. But the charts have no room for this sort of thing, and on One Direction’s solid albums the AOR moves were tracks, not singles. No one remembers he released a solo album in May.

Ashley John: “Two Ghosts” is me now, looking back on the impossible purity of loving One Direction in 2012.

Elisabeth Sanders: ***** *** ****

Ryo Miyauchi: Instead of writing a silhouette of a girl as he did in One Direction, he now leaves behind a blank, reflective monument in “Two Ghosts.” The record can initially sound deceptively shallow with it getting by a lot on guitars suggesting sadness and how Harry squeezes the most out his simple rhymes. But following his heartbreak, I’m reminded of another pretty lad’s take on a change of heart, albeit far less snarky: “you used to have a face straight out of a magazine; now you look just like anyone.” A lack of depth is precisely how one should get out of this. And how he ends up finding no meaning in the surface details only makes this hurt more.

William John: Having not heard this since I gave Harry Styles’ album a cursory play on its day of release, I was blindsided when it came on the radio in an Uber a few weeks ago; the spectral guitars at its beginning and plodding verses bear strong similarities to Paul Kelly’s “How To Make Gravy“, perhaps the only good Christmas song to ever come out of Australia, and with which I associate a nostalgia for tween-age summers so unbearable that I probably can’t listen to it in full without crying. As if to distinguish himself from my memories, the chorus arrives with guitars folding into a stomp, acting to quell my tear ducts somewhat. But the air of nostalgia remains, and while Kelly’s song ends with feelings of triumph seeping through the sadness, “Two Ghosts” is resolutely despondent, its narrator grasping fruitlessly for some semblance of the joy lost upon a relationship’s dissolution. The repeated refrain “we’re not who we used to be” indicates a compartmentalisation, a healthy separation between past and present; but then those eerie guitars come back again, and I’m convinced that Styles is just as much of a (new) romantic sentimentalist as me.

Katherine St Asaph: I like this more when I mentally slot it not with Ed Sheeran and his market, but with Beth Orton or “You and I.” (If vaguely approximating the amelodic rhythm of Right Said Fred gets them a credit, surely lifting one-third of the verse would qualify? You mean to say interpolation credits are about litigiousness and biz politics, not consistency?) Funny how this is what sounds like none of his peers. Also funny how Liam and Harry have gotten the careers that fit the other’s band persona — imagine the dreadful other way round.

Alex Clifton: Harry’s melancholic, Sea Change-inspired response to Taylor Swift’s “Style” is, well, exactly it sounds like. The lyrics are quite pretty–if he’s taken a page from Swift’s songbook, it’s the recall of detail to sketch a story (and several of these lyrics call back to other Swift songs, like the reference to the “fridge light” and, of course, “same lips red, same eyes blue”). A bit turgid after the weird, ballsy initial single of “Sign of the Times”, but Harry carries it well enough and makes your heart ache a little. It’s not great, but I’d prefer this from someone like Harry over any Ed Sheeran song these days. At least Harry’s bewilderment at a fractured relationship sounds real.

Tara Hillegeist: Why would anyone follow up such a delightfully pompous piece of treacle-pop like “Sign of the Times” with this, which sounds so pretentiously simple and vagueblogging in its “oh, girl, my dissatisfaction with you is a blame we both share, and it hurts me so to feel this inadequate for you” insinuations that it could’ve been penned by John Lennon?

Anthony Easton: Erotic longing, somewhere between Laurel Canyon and Nashville in the middle of the 1970s, is always a good look, and Styles’ smooth tenor convinces as it seduces.

Andy Hutchins: The chords from “Rill Rill” (or is it “Wish You Were Here”?) are rill distracting, but young Harry is building a heck of a setlist for a guitar-strumming Glastonbury appearance, isn’t he? “Competent soft rock that is warmer than it is boring” is a product Ed Sheeran seems happy to be far away from, what with his bar-hopping tunes and U2 karaoke, and Styles has always had the sort of velvet midrange that was well-suited to make it. Here, over a campfire set by Jeff Bhasker, he sounds at home.

Cassy Gress: “Two Ghosts” is one of those early ’70s songs that sounds like a backyard, just with fewer cicadas and citronella lamps, and more stars and faint chill. It’s probably too simple, but it’s as cozy and familiar as an itchy plaid Herculon couch.

Claire Biddles: Slow and soothing, “Two Ghosts” defaults to the steady comfort of its parent album Harry Styles. The pretty-boy-singing-Fleetwood-Mac formula doesn’t make for a remarkable single, but it delivers in keeping my anxiety at bay for at least four minutes, which is — for me — what Harry is there for.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: On my headphones, the guitar strumming tickles both of my ears enough to coax me into a hypnagogic state. “Two Ghosts” is serene, yes, but I’m not quite sure it earns it. I’m generally fine with singer-songwriters relying so heavily on a certain mood to carry an entire song, but the obviousness of the “we’re not who we used to be” line takes me out of the experience. And unfortunately, it creates a massive domino effect where I start to become annoyed with the rest of these lyrics. It’s perhaps a bit telling that these “descriptive” verses are only able to conjure up images from their musical elements and not their lyrical ones.

Stephen Eisermann: The southern-rock (lite) cousin of “”Either Way,”” this song allows Harry to display his tremendous understanding of a pretty devastating circumstance. The couple in question fell out of love, but rather than put the couple against each other the song instead focuses on grieving for the lost love. It’s a beautiful, if simple, lyric that is elevated by the emotion that comes through from Harry’s voice and the electric guitar.

Reader average: [5.66] (9 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

8 Responses to “Harry Styles – Two Ghosts”

  1. ‘No one remembers he released a solo album in may’ do u mean aside from his millions of fans or

  2. A well-done refresher course.

  3. TARA, YES. also, fuck John Lennon.

  4. lmao

  5. Claire: do they remember?

  6. Yes? Idk what you’re getting at

  7. hey, I’m a fan and I forgot.

  8. there was a specific song i was wanting to reference in my blurb for the “70s backyard” sound, but i couldn’t think what it was at the time, but anyway it was three dog night – shambala