Are You Listening? Because Haim's Got Something To Tell Us.
I’ll be the first to admit that I arrived late to the Haim fan party. I certainly liked the singles I heard on the radio from their 2013 debut album Days Are Gone. I could objectively recognize the group’s musical talents, but for whatever reason, I never fully invested. It wasn’t until earlier this year when I began researching the band Electric Guest and their album Plural for another Musicology post, that I discovered the trio helped write the chorus for one of my favorite songs called “Dear To Me” (The Fadder). Motivated by the euphoric response “Dear To Me” evokes whenever I listen to it, I decided to give Haim’s music a closer listen. It turns out, Haim had something to tell me and everyone else last month with the release of their second album; and I really like what they have to say.
The Los Angeles native pop-rock trio has been playing music together since they were children. Danielle Haim sings lead vocals and plays the guitar; her sister Este Haim plays the drums and bass while Alana Haim plays guitar and keyboard. In a recent interview the band gave Noel King of All Things Considered, Este Haim said:
“I don't remember a time in my life when I wasn't playing drums. It was the same thing as when I came to the realization that not everyone was in a family band. Because I was in a family band from the time I was in elementary school, I just assumed that's what families did. And then when I would talk to my friends about it, I'd be like, ‘So, when's your rehearsal?’ And my friends would be like, ‘For what?’ And I'd be like, ‘When does your band rehearse with your parents?’ And they would be like, ‘I'm going to the mall this weekend, Este.’” [Laughs.]
Instead of rehearsing with their mom and dad for the family cover band Rockinhaim, nowadays the sisters find themselves opening for Taylor Swift on world tours, and navigating their rise to stardom.
With the new Something To Tell You album, the ladies explore the ups and downs of relationships, expressing the common frustrations, desires and disappointments that go hand and hand with intimacy. In the same All Things Considered interview, Danielle Haim explains:
“When we were writing this record, we were three girls in different stages of their 20s, which I think is a very interesting time. I mean, I'm 28 – I'm still going through it! There's some songs on the record that touch on being a woman in a touring band, and having to deal with men's egos, and your partner's egos. It's also us growing up. With ‘Want You Back,’ it was definitely us taking a step back and realizing that sometimes, you have to realize that you have a part in a relationship that has gone sour.”
That being said, if you’re expecting some deeply metaphoric, introspective Ani DiFranco rawness, this is not the album for you and perhaps not the group for you either—at least not yet. I have no doubt that as the ladies mature and continue to write about their life experiences, those truths will show up in their songs, but overall the music is light-hearted and poppy. Haim’s take on the relationship narrative is universally relatable. Something To Tell You makes for a great summer album, where the music primarily reflects the sentiments of optimism. The sound is ultimately hopeful and uplifting even when the subject matter is heavier.
Haim’s rightful place in my musical zeitgeist is difficult for me to locate. For example, Danielle Haim sounds so much like Sara Bareilles even with a gun to my head, I don’t think I could accurately identify which voice I was hearing. If I were the rumor spreading type, I’d say Bareilles was a long lost Haim sister from another mister—the voices are just uncannily similar to me. I happen to be a huge Bareilles fan—so it makes sense that I’d be drawn to Danielle’s tonal quality and the emotive purity I get from her voice.
When it comes to song structure, rhythms, and overall musical orchestration, half the time I feel like I’m listening to a modern day Wilson Philips—as if at any moment the music will drop out and Carnie Wilson will take over lead vocals while the girls step-clap into the chorus of “Hold On.” That’s not a dis! To this day, whenever I’m channel surfing in the car, I stop to crank up “Hold On”—or do my best rendition of the choreography from Bridesmaids in the grocery store while it blasts over the PA system.
Some day somebody's gonna make you want to
Turn around and say goodbye
Until then baby are you going to let them
Hold you down and make you cry
Don't you know?
Don't you know things can change
Things'll go your way
If you hold on for one more day yeah
If you hold on
That same syncopated, fast-paced, 16th-note, talk-lyric style that jumps from interval to interval, which sold millions of records for Wilson Philips in the late 90s, feels appropriately referential to my ear when I listen to songs like “Want You Back,” “Nothing’s Wrong,” and the title track “Something To Tell You.” I can hear the vulnerability in the lyrics and vocals, while underneath there is a virtuous innocence layered into the music. Songs like, “You Never Knew,” are easy listening—ideal for a summer road trip up the coast with nods to the smoothness of other singing trios like the Bee Gees in that yacht-rock style, while still managing to be contemporary.
I suggest giving Something To Tell You a try. Like me, you might just hear something that converts you from apathetic listener to enthusiastic fan.
Favorite Tracks: "Something To Tell You," "Want You Back," "Nothing's Wrong," "You Never Knew," "Found It In Silence."