Throughout the trajectory of his solo career, Harry Styles has usually opted for ‘70s-inspired sounds, with hints of David Bowie, Rolling Stones, and Fleetwood Mac. When he announced his third album Harry’s House, carrying the same name as Joni Mitchell’s song, it was expected that influence would also be prevalent on his third record. But in a surprising twist, the first single “As It Was” didn’t sound anything like Styles’ previous work; instead, it felt like going back in time… to just over a decade ago.
“As It Was” begins with bright synths that capture the joy of those twinkly, danceable songs from the blogrock era. Styles is a masterful songwriter, but he’s traditionally shied away from going full pop, instead taking a groovier, pared-down approach on his previous albums. The synths inject a burst of energy into this single, and show that the former boy-bander can still craft an excellent pop song—even if it’s miles away from the kind of pop he made under One Direction.
Plus, it makes for a fun round of “guess the influence.” Upon the song’s premiere, fans online began debating which indie pop bands the song sounded most like: Names such as The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Vampire Weekend, Two Door Cinema Club, and Smith Westerns have all popped up (in this writer’s opinion, it sounds like The Drums meets Mystery Jets, with hints of Los Campesinos! and Allo Darlin’).
One music writer, Patrick Lyons, went ahead and made a bingo game about it. “Compete with your friends to see who’s following more music journalists by scrolling your feeds and playing the ‘Harry Styles new single x 2009-2011 buzzbands” bingo game,’” he wrote on Twitter. Though Lyons’ bingo card has a wide range of names, every comparison listed makes sense. It’s not far-fetched for a man in his mid-twenties who grew up in England to have been a fan of the “Tumblr twee” era. And, come on, we’re also talking about someone who recently toured with Jenny Lewis, so Styles clearly knows his twee-inclined indie pop.