HAIM’s waited return offers a tracklist that seems to be ‘Days Are Gone 2.0’, however this time their unrelenting pop sound lacks the charm and freshness that everyone adored on their infectious debut.
The first time I heard HAIM was at Splendour in the Grass 2013. Their debut hadn’t been released yet, and they were pretty unknown Down Under. But here were three young gals (I later found out that they were sisters) rockin out HARD. Danielle killed it on vocals and lead guitar, whilst Este’s iconic bass face and stance could be seen from the next stage over. Their tracks had a gritty, rock-inspired edge to them. I couldn’t get enough.
(Photo courtesy of Jeff Dawson via Echo Net Daily)
Upon the release of ‘Days are Gone’, I’d quickly realised that the trio had scrubbed away all grittiness to leave a squeaky-clean pop record with tinges of funk, soul and rnb. Although slightly disappointed at the disparity between live set and record, it was still a solid pop album. They’d recreated a Fleetwood Mac-type sound that the industry hadn’t been exposed to on a mass-scale for decades. It packed a groove and a flair that forced listeners to fall in love with them.
After over three years between releases, HAIM has dialled up the pop vibes even further. ‘Something To Tell You’ strips away any resemblance of rock, instead embracing a variety of pop tropes, armed with a butt-load of synths, drum pads, and the occasional Taylor Swift-style country guitar riff. It is an album that throws back to the late 70s/early 80s more vividly than ever before. This is extremely pertinent in tracks such as ‘Little of Your Love’ and ‘Ready for You’; songs that could have come from any George Michael album.
‘Something to Tell You’ opens with the highlight of the album. ‘Want You Back’ is a fun, catchy single with all the quintessential elements of HAIM including a funky beat, great production, sweet vocal harmonies, and, most importantly, danceability. Second track ‘Nothing’s Wrong’ is also an easily lovable, straight-forward pop song. That is, until two minutes in when it breaks down into a bizarre experimental drop (think 22 A-Million), before starting the synths back up again. An addition I found odd, and not complementary.
To its credit, ‘Something to Tell You’ retains HAIM’s reputation as being the queens of rhythm. The three sisters started out as drummers before moving onto their respective instruments, and their ear for melding varieties in tempo and rhythm is evident. The protruding drum line in title track ‘Something to Tell You’ is a shining moment on the record. But by the end of the album, the layers upon layers of differing instrumentation becomes unnecessary and cluttered.
Lyrically, this album is cyclical at best, dull at worst. It’s content is a high school romance: “Does he like me?” “Does he not like me?” “This moment is perfect. Let’s never say goodbye.” It doesn’t add anything new to the conversation, and it lacks the earnest emotion of ‘Days are Gone’. Danielle’s vocal performance also lacks the emotional oomf on their debut, as her signature snarl and rock-and-roll attitude is missing.
‘Something to Tell You’ will please those searching for the fun, familiar HAIM sound that we know and love. However, it’s synthetic, sometimes muddled sound, as well as its lack of earnestness results in an album that has little power to influence or remain relevant.
Tell me what you think!