Haim are such a fun band. Often the assignation of ‘fun’ can undermine artistic merit, seem dismissive or imply no amount of seriousness but that is as far from my intended meaning as possible. The music produced by these three is fun but also deeply credible. They came to my attention during their first album cycle with tracks such as The Wire, Don’t Save Me and Falling (one of the tracks of my year when it appeared – spoiler: they’ve done it again this year) paired with an impressive live reputation and ‘that Bass Face’. I’m fairly certain I’ve not seen them live myself though the cider addled mind may have lost some fidelity from a few Glastonbury Festivals since they came on the scene. I would certainly seek them out when festivals return.
Their sophomore passed me by save for the single Want You Back. So I was happy to see them return with their particular brand of breezy sunny rock/pop on their third record Women in Music, Pt III.
Don’t Wanna caught my attention immediately and hasn’t let go since. It is one of the best tracks they have made and that has been released in 2020. It is indicative of the quality of the rest of the record while also standing tall on its own merit. It shows the restrained, assured attitude of the trio while focussing on tight songwriting at first but then loosens up to be more expansive with vocal harmonies and synths made to emulate the effect that brass usually provides. Overall they bring something organic from a lot of synthetic and clinical sounds. I’m a fan!
The full record offers up more treasures in tracks such as the light and breezy jazzy opener Los Angeles and the following country twanged The Steps. These tracks open the album wonderfully.
Up From A Dream opens with a distorted yawn leading to a bouncy bassline that you can’t help but move to as it plods relentlessly ready for the rest of the track which explodes about a third of the way in, using all kinds of distortion on vocals and guitars alike. Like a particular guitar lick can make you feel great I love the way “you’re changed in the blink of an eye” feels in its cadence here. Lyrically and sonically it just feels good.
Gasoline is a smooth and funky pseudo-ballad offering a fresh feeling and comfortable place to rest in the middle of the record and a real highlight here. 3am rudely awakens you with an uncomfortable intro, fitting as the song is about being woken up in such a fashion but hits you with just as wonderful a track reminiscent of 00s RnB.
Another Try adds a tropical lilt to proceedings drawing on reggae while not being too gratuitous with it. Leaning On You offers another highlight with beautiful harmonies over playful acoustic guitars combining heavy reverb with none-at-all to create a fun juxtaposition. I’ve Been Down returns to solid ground where I would say it sounds ordinary and safe for them but that would be a disservice when the quality on show here – it’s a good thing!
Man from the Magazine is a stripped back and dissonant track using rough production, very limited musical variety and restricted vocal range in the melody. Still a good track but a creative difference from that which has come on the record thus far. The distortion is back in full force on All That Ever Mattered along with an industrial beat and a primal scream. It’s bold. It’s loud. I like it! FUBT returns to the more country-rock guitar sound we know Haim for to see you out in comfort and style.
I find it frustrating when bonus tracks on albums are as good or better than the tracks found on the album proper. Now I’m In It is just such a track. It brings together all the elements described above and adds a sound stage scale that is aimed at arenas. Excellent stuff. Hallelujah is an acoustic guitar only track sounding like a traditional porch-front country song at first but then evolves into a full studio sound with harmonised vocals and synth string accompaniment. Finally, jazzy number Summer Girl has a very laid back vibe, drawing on Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side (credited) that would have felt thematically like a bookend finish to Los Angeles.
Looking at the tracklist and song lengths, my guess would be that these tracks are part of the record but have been omitted for physical releases. But no. They are on the physical releases as well. It would seem they were released throughout 2019 so potentially they are not viewed as part of the album campaign on release. With the earliest having been released this time last year, that is quite fair.
This is an incredibly consistent and coherent album from the Haim sisters. It is light and breezy but with a serious backbone behind it; it is funky and fun while often juxtaposing melancholia, fatigue or frustration through the lyrics. A massively enjoyable record and essential for your summer collection this year.
Highlights: Don’t Wanna, Leaning On You, Gasoline