Haim makes you think rock might have a fu­ture

Los An­ge­les sis­ter trio re­leases lat­est mu­sic with help from a few fa­mous friends

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - MIKAEL WOOD

In the mu­sic video for “Want You Back,” the lead sin­gle from their long-awaited new al­bum, the three sis­ters of Haim saunter down a de­serted Ven­tura Boule­vard, air-drum­ming as they pass the sushi joints and car deal­er­ships of their na­tive San Fer­nando Val­ley.

The video’s early morn­ing shoot may have been the most alone time they’ve en­joyed since 2013. That’s when Haim re­leased its hit de­but, “Days Are Gone,” which af­ter years of hard work around Los An­ge­les fi­nally launched this crafty fam­ily band to star­dom — and to highly vis­i­ble re­la­tion­ships with a di­verse ar­ray of pop lu­mi­nar­ies.

Tay­lor Swift be­friended the sis­ters and took them on tour. Calvin Har­ris put them on a thump­ing EDM track. Mor­ris Day even re­cruited the trio to help him per­form “Jun­gle Love” on “Jimmy Kim­mel Live.” Ev­ery­where you turned, Haim was the life of some­one’s party.

Now the group is back with “Some­thing to Tell You,” which fea­tures con­tri­bu­tions by what seems like half of L.A.’s mu­si­cal com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing pro­duc­ers Ariel Recht­shaid and Rostam Bat­man­glij and first-call in­stru­men­tal­ists such as Greg Leisz and Lenny Cas­tro.

For all the voices in the mix, though, “Some­thing to Tell You” still feels de­fined by the unique bond that con­nects singer-gui­tarist Danielle Haim, bassist Este Haim and gui­tarist-key­boardist Alana Haim, who grew up play­ing mu­sic in a fam­ily band with their par­ents. The record makes you be­lieve in the im­age in the “Want You Back” video of three women shar­ing a vivid pri­vate lan­guage.

It also makes you be­lieve that rock might have a fu­ture (even if it’s only the genre’s past). On “Days Are Gone,” Haim looked back to the pol­ished sound of vin­tage Fleet­wood Mac and the Ea­gles, and here the sis­ters con­tinue to rely on gui­tars and the like at a mo­ment when many of their peers have lit­tle use for them.

In the ti­tle track they layer their vo­cals over a needling riff that re­calls Ste­vie Nicks’ “Edge of Seven­teen” (a fre­quent Haim touch­stone), while the sparkling “You Never Knew” could pass for an out­take from “Tango in the Night.” Else­where, “Kept Me Cry­ing” rides a driv­ing groove with real grit around its edges; “Right Now” starts qui­etly but erupts about a minute in with dis­torted power chords.

You can tell the mem­bers of Haim care about their per­cep­tion as play­ers. Some­times they’ll keep the buzz of an am­pli­fier in a song or crank a slap-bass part as high as most bands crank the lead singer. And in an­other of the al­bum’s videos, for “Right Now,” di­rec­tor Paul Thomas An­der­son’s cam­era roves around a musty-look­ing record­ing stu­dio in a nearly un­bro­ken shot that’s es­sen­tially say­ing, “See, no tricks!”

Yet Haim is hardly a purist’s op­er­a­tion; the group pairs its de­vo­tion to old-fash­ioned tech­nique with a true love for the ar­ti­fi­cial magic of mod­ern record-mak­ing. Weird synth ef­fects, jumpy dig­i­tal ed­its, funny ro­bot voices — they’re all part of the pre­cisely cal­i­brated mu­si­cal pro­duc­tion on “Some­thing to Tell You,” which draws more than “Days Are Gone” did from disco and R&B.

One high­light of the al­bum is “Ready for You,” a frothy elec­trosoul jam the sis­ters cowrote with George Lewis Jr. of Twin Shadow. And the sul­try “Walk­ing Away” re­places live drums with a pro­grammed beat.

Given the time and the re­sources the band had to spend on this record, it’s not sur­pris­ing that Haim goes over­board a cou­ple of times, pil­ing cool sounds onto songs — the string-backed “Found It in Si­lence,” for in­stance — that aren’t sturdy enough to sup­port them.

Even when that hap­pens, though, you’re not hear­ing a lack of per­son­al­ity; Haim never sur­ren­ders its quirks to fit a stream­lined idea of Top 40 pop. Through­out “Some­thing to Tell You,” the women de­ploy their sig­na­ture vo­cal ap­proach — a kind of syn­co­pated per­cus­sive de­liv­ery with more than a lit­tle hip-hop in it — while Danielle’s lyrics ad­dress big themes with off-kil­ter speci­ficity.

“They said you’d be like all the other guys,” she sings in “Ready for You,” one of many tunes here about ro­man­tic tur­moil.

Then she mem­o­rably ze­roes in on the charge: “Two-faced but too numb to know it / Telling your pretty lies.”

With sis­ters like hers, who’d need such an un­feel­ing mis­ter?

EL­IZ­A­BETH WEINBERG, NYT

From left, Este, Alana and Danielle Haim of the band Haim in Los An­ge­les. While their vin­tage style made them fash­ion-world favourites, their mu­sic bridged the main­stream and soon they were open­ing for, and be­friend­ing, Tay­lor Swift, and re­ceiv­ing gifts from Ste­vie Nicks, who anointed them as part of her sis­ter­hood.

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