HAIM- ‘Something To Tell You’: A Review
Friday saw the release of LA sisters HAIM‘s long-awaited second album, and after obsessing over 2013 debut Days Are Gone for aaaages, I couldn’t WAIT to hear it. In the four years since the girls’ first album, we’ve seen some pretty bad news for both music and feminism, from the death of incredible musical icons such as David Bowie and Prince, to the current political climate in America, so HAIM‘s unique brand of 70s-infused girl power seemed to me to be long overdue.
The album opens with newest single Want You Back, a song that encapsulates everything that’s brilliant about HAIM– combining frontwoman Danielle‘s uniquely retro-sounding vocals with powerful piano chords, hand claps and harmonies from her sisters Este and Alana to create something that starts quietly and builds up into the anthemic wall of sound that is the song’s chorus. Want You Back is nothing we haven’t seen from HAIM before, but this hardly matters, as it reintroduces the band perfectly after four years away. It’s followed by my favourite song from the album, the uber-catchy Nothing’s Wrong, which sounds like it’s been plucked straight from Fleetwood Mac‘s 1987 album Tango in the Night, and is essentially what a sunny day would sound like if it were audible.
HAIM‘s clear Fleetwood Mac influences are continued later on in the album with You Never Knew, something that tugged on my Stevie Nicks-loving heartstrings approximately two seconds into the intro. It is this song from Something To Tell You in particular that makes me want to buy several hundred copies of it and run into various pubs and shops and hairdressers and hospitals, waving it in the faces of adults and shouting ‘See! You’re all under the impression that music released today is nothing you could ever be interested in! You think it lacks substance and all sounds the same! You’ve never been more wrong! Listen to THIS, I’ll change your mind!’. NOTHING about You Never Knew sounds like it was released in the year 2017, from the girls’ dreamy backing vocals to an undying bassline throughout the chorus, courtesy of Este Haim, to that incredible intro. The 1970s are alive and well in 2017, and it’s all thanks to three sisters with great hair from Los Angeles.
Despite being so undeniably HAIM, there’s something in every song on Something To Tell You that we’ve never heard from the band before. Little of Your Love is pure pop, and could almost be written for a far more mainstream girl band like Little Mix, a genre of pop music that, even though it’s not something we’re used to associating with HAIM, they pull off perfectly. Kept Me Crying appears to call out the quintessential f**kboy, in the lyric “I was a lover, I was a friend / Now I’m only just someone you call when it’s late enough to forget”, while Walking Away presents a much more subdued angle to the album, overlapping Danielle‘s almost onomatopoeic lead vocals with repetitive drum beats and whispery backing vocals from Alana and Este.
The album draws to a close with Right Now, the first song to reintroduce HAIM after their four-year break, when a video of them recording it was uploaded to their YouTube channel. On first listen, Right Now doesn’t seem like anything special, consisting only of a simple melody and call-and-response style vocals from Danielle, Este and Alana, but it is when the drums kick in towards the end of the song that it all falls into place (all three members of HAIM are trained drummers, and despite the fact they tour with drummer Jody Giachello, Danielle plays drums on every song on Something To Tell You). Right Now is the sort of song that can only be listened to properly through headphones, turned up to the highest volume until your head is filled with sound and it’s impossible to think about anything else. The last song on Something To Tell You is arguably the saddest, the haunting Night So Long. Here, it is the simplicity of the song that makes it so beautiful, shifting from Danielle‘s solo vocals in the verses to all three Haim sisters coming together like a choir of angels on the chorus. It ends abruptly, bringing Something To Tell You to an indisputable end while still leaving something lingering in the path that it left. In the seconds of silence after the album finishes, you are left in awe of what you’ve just listened to, and upset that it had to end so quickly, and so soon. The music cutting out at the end of Night So Long is like a cliffhanger at the end of Game of Thrones– you’re brought out of it as quickly as you were thrown in, and all there’s left to do is contemplate what you’ve just experienced, and reflect on the fact that it’s nothing like you’ve ever experienced before.
If it’s not glaringly obvious, I really really love these incredible women and the music they create. For me, they’re a breath of fresh air in a music scene that doesn’t tend to welcome women into it. It is almost as though women aren’t supposed to play instruments- bands involving women are almost unheard of in the indie-alternative genre, and every year there’s a new outrage over the lack of female-fronted acts at big festivals such as Reading & Leeds- in fact, they aren’t supposed to do anything that presents them as being anything other than puppets that are exploited in order for record companies to sell music. HAIM are first on a long list of a new generation of female musicians who are not about to let society’s idea of what a woman in music ‘should’ be, because let’s face it, when’s the last time you heard of an all-girl group who write and play their own music and are becoming evermore popular in the mainstream? In interviews, they’re funny, likeable and the sort of people you’d want to be friends with, in music videos, they’re leather jacket-clad and uber-cool, performing dance routines that I’m not afraid to admit I’ve copied and learned in my living room at home on a Saturday night. It is an absolute pleasure to have HAIM back making music, especially when it is as downright perfect as Something To Tell You. The only thing I can continue to hope for now is that they tour with it in the UK, because there’s nothing I’d love more than to witness these three total goddesses do what they do best live and in person.