HAIM – Something To Tell You Review 

It’s been four years since Este, Danielle and Alana, aka Haim, released their debut album ‘Days Are Gone’, almost instantly crafting a distinctly recognizable sound. Now, after relentless touring and memorable festival appearances, the trio return with their much anticipated second full-length album ‘Something To Tell You’. 

Working once again with Ariel Rechtshaid, as well as with the added input of Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij and musicians Greg Leisz and Lenny Castro, the message Haim are so desperate to share is wonderfully bitter-edged. 

Returning to their love of seventies swaggering guitar lines, breezy harmonies and touches of folk-ish elements, not to mention a healthy mix of the snarled gloss lips and pointed stares of the band’s R&B idols, the message is clear – someone tried to break Haim’s heart, but these sisters are not about to let that stop them. 

Opener ‘Want You Back’ starts things off comfortably within Haim’s signature punchy multi-part harmony battleground, with all its finger-snapping catchiness. Rechtshaid’s production crafts a lush, expansive sound that feels as equally cinematic as it does crawling out of a tent in the early hours still clutching the remnants of a snakebite. 

Things continue in a polished cinematic feel through ‘Nothing’s Wrong’, which takes Haim’s retro-leaning and adds just a little more seventies soft rock – if that’s even possible. 

Where ‘Want You Back’, ‘Nothing Wrong’ and ‘Kept Me Crying’ brood Stevie Nicks style as the sisters sing through the struggles of relationships, though lyrics focus on an external suffering rather than anything too introverted, ‘Little Of Your Love’ takes the album’s heartache themes and skips along in a burst of hope fuelled, almost boastful, sunshine, like the retro intro to a much-loved Los Angeles TV show. Not too surprising as the track was originally meant for the soundtrack of Amy Schumer’s movie Trainwreck.

Though most tracks stay within the band’s comfort zone – ie luscious harmonies and soft rock licks – Haim’s sophomore album doesn’t stay exclusively within the era of denim flares and tinted sunglasses. ‘Ready For You’ and title track ‘Something To Tell You’ juts Haim’s tough-girl stance a step towards the eighties. While ‘Walking Away’ whispers with the feel of a mid-nineties R&B classic. Even the soulful ‘You Never Knew’, returning mostly to the soft sounds of warped vinyl and sepia-toned Polaroids, has the slightest hint of 1984’s ‘Dancing In The Dark’.

Not every track is instantly likable. Lovelorn, stripped back, power ballads such as closer ‘Night So Long’, see’s Danielle’s sparse vocal build, letting go of the bitterness that builds throughout ‘Something To Tell You’ before the album comes to its abrupt end, and ‘Found It In Silence’, ironically turning up the strings and pushes things forwards towards the edge of a tense crescendo, never quite hit home. 

Album highlights are without a doubt its ludicrously catchy, strutting singles, ‘Right Now’ and ‘Want You Back’, which pulse with simmering aggression, exuding just the right amount of ‘frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn’ amongst the trio’s harmonies to draw you ever closer to recreating a Destiny’s Child dance routine on your walk to the corner shop.

Though it’s not just harmonies that are layered into each track. Haim moves towards a more surefooted inclination, seeming to dampen just a little of the eclectic song structures that fuelled their debut, there are still some interesting effects. Snippets of synths clash lightly with the squeak of special effects to create a captivating complexity to the band’s familiar sound. Overall ‘Something To Tell You’ is a collection of carefully crafted melancholic tracks that take Haim’s vintage style and hypnotic harmonies into an ever more slick production. 

HAIM – Something To Tell You = 8/10

Hayley Miller

HAIM – Days Are Gone Review

They have been the band on everyone’s lips for various reasons for a whole year now and it was stepped up a gear when they were announced as the winners of the BBC’s sound of 2013 poll. That only piles the pressure on really. When there is always very credible acts taking up the lower rankings of the poll and all this when they had only released a handful of songs. This therefore left every bit of new material under intense scrutiny and though its part and parcel of being in a popular band, they’ve used it positively. Almost as a marketing strategy. Their live performances with Glastonbury being a real opportunity for them; they shone as crowd pleasers. Their more recent singles have only seen them climb the charts while not altering the sound to do such a thing. Those listening have altered their tastes. But of course it’s well-known that just because a band has mainstream appraisal or decent chart showings doesn’t mean that their music is challenging the norms, enhancing existing sounds or being innovative in general. That’s the question with HAIM that I’m asking.

‘The Wire’ is a slight departure from their initial sound with more isolated and turned up instrumentals. The guitars reverbing slightly, with the bass unrelenting and forming the rhythmic foundations of the song. Its by no means buried under the other instrumentals. They don’t have vocals that are going to knock you out either but, they utilise them to more than their best with the combinations of their vocals, shifting them and introducing harmonies over that. The light layers of synth on the chorus add to the dimensions the song has. Its catchy and rhythmic but its not a raging rock song either. It is certainly more than a bit of indie pop. One issue with this is maybe the drawn out part towards the end with unnecessary effects on the vocals amongst other things and perhaps they got a little carried away there but it’s part of their first album after all so such mistakes will be there. ‘Don’t Save Me’ is one of the songs to capture everyone’s initial attention back late last year. Again, the bass is the driving force of the song and leaks out the tune while the echoed percussion adds to the sense of space along with the synths whirring behind the bass line. The tinge of echo on the vocal too, adds to that sense of space being created about what is another catchy song. Its hooks in melodies in the percussion and the bass while the synths harmonise everything along with the backing vocals too. There is a lot going on this song but its been recorded with that idea of leaving space with each musical element and makes for a happy compromise between style and substance.

‘Forever’ opens with feathered synths sounds and light vocal harmonies to stretch the music out with more room for other elements like the highly isolated riff and bass line that throws the rhythm and melody in your face. Maintaining this for the winding up of sound towards the final chorus the riff allows for more and more sounds to pile on to it due to its solidity garnered from the way it was recorded. ‘Falling’ is a much more atmospheric affair with the subtle suggestions of synth sounds and the isolated bass line. Much space is left for them to make it a largely vocal driven track with other elements and sounds following from it. This allows for great implosions of sound into the chorus and a subsequent winding down of sound from it too which keeps the song a little less predictable in terms of song progression. ‘Days Are Gone’ is again built around the bass, but loses that trait at times for shifts to vocal and synth driven parts. The songs hook is formed from the typical vocal harmonies on the chorus and its atmospheric quality just about pulls it together. ‘Let Me Go’ is the songs slow ballad. The vocal trio and very little else evokes the calm and considered feel but it then uses percussion and synths to steadily build up the volume and scope of the song while retaining its dramatic quality from what isn’t being done in the song. It is a great piece of production. The whole album has its moments in that respect and the engines of some of the songs is peculiar, but often works with the room they give each song to breathe and expand. The hooks and rhythms of most of the songs are always contrasted within by the lightly washed out sound going on in conjunction with it and they’ve made both styles work off each other. I think it has pretty much lived up to all the attention and coverage and they seem to have a good grasp of recording methods and structural techniques to enhance their songs which is something that will only grow from here. It does have its weak spots though and isn’t a massive shake up of currents sounds, but they’ve been tweaked and experimented with and such optimism should only be celebrated. Not attacked for sounding different.

HAIM – Days Are Gone = 8/10

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Images from fault-magazine.com / http://en.wikipedia.org