On ‘Come June,’ Mitch Rowland, collaborator to Harry Styles, makes a pretty folk debut

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This cover image released by Giant Music/Erskine shows "Come June" by Mitch Rowland. (Giant Music/Erskine via AP)
This cover image released by Giant Music/Erskine shows “Come June” by Mitch Rowland. (Giant Music/Erskine via AP)AP

LOS ANGELES (AP) — He might not be immediately recognizable to the masses, but multi-instrumentalist Mitch Rowland is a household name to a certain cohort of music obsessives: Harry Styles fans.

The Grammy Award-winner (credited for Album of the Year, which Styles took home at the 2023 ceremony for his 2022 record “Harry’s House”; Rowland co-wrote “Music for a Sushi Restaurant” and “Keep Driving”) will release his debut album on Friday, titled “Come June,” via Giant Music/Erskine Records.

The former is owned by the Azoff Company, the latter, by Styles. Rowland is Styles’ first signee, but do not expect scatting, or funky bass, or some of the particularities of his boss’ recent oeuvre (though an acoustic Rowland track like “When It All Falls Down,” is easily comparable to Styles’ “Matilda.”)

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On “Come June,” Rowland demonstrates a deep understanding of a kind of indie folk sound, from the Laurel Canyon-esque opener “Bluebells” to the propulsive “Illusionist,” with its subtle psychedelic production. He began the project in 2019, delayed it to tour with Styles, and four years later, has a full-length body of work to celebrate.

It arrives one decade after Rowland first landed in Los Angeles with the hope to pursue music. Of course, then he was working at a pizza joint, not at all aware that he’d meet his future wife and father of his child (English drummer Sarah Jones, who also performs with Styles) and tour stadiums and arenas around the world with the former boy band member.

Overwhelmingly, “Come June” is a soft and optimistic record, well-studied and warm. Think of it as the analog soundtrack to an afternoon spent in a university cafe. One spin of “Shadow Range,” and it’s clear that in addition Rowland’s steady diet of Wilco, Beck and the Black Crowes, he’s spun a Belle and Sebastian record or two in his day, perhaps some Big Thief, and certainly some Nick Drake. That’s the beauty of folk songs and open-tunings — you can hear your favorites within it.

Or, perhaps, the familiarity has something to do with his collaborators: producer Rob Schnapf (an indie rock icon known for co-producing Elliott Smith’s “Either/Or,” “XO,” “Figure 8” and “From a Basement on the Hill,” among others) and Ben Harper (who plays lap steel on “All the Way Back.”)

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There is also a jubilance to Rowland’s uplifting sonic sensibilities that recalls his songwriting work with Styles — particularly on the track “Here Comes the Comeback,” originally composed for an ad. When it was revealed to be too good to give up, it became a conversation between who would record it: the popstar or one of his closest collaborators?

Styles sings backup, like a good band member should.

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