SOMETHING TO TELL YOU
Despite the swirl of classic-rock comparisons and pop-girl-squad murmurs surrounding Haim, this pop-rock trio has been in a class of its own from the start. Few bands can launch six successful singles off a debut record, as Haim did with 2013’s Days Are Gone, and fewer still are capable of justifying a spot near the top of festival bills for three years after the band’s only album.
Neither the concept of the family band nor the soft rock sound have been strong signifiers of “cool” in the 2010s, yet producing musical cool is exactly what Este, Danielle, and Alana Haim do best. The band’s second release, Something to Tell You, demonstrates that these musicians have expertly polished that sound, but the album is too rooted in tried-and-true tactics to reward many repeat listens.
Of course, any debut as big as Haim’s immediately sets a high bar, so Days Are Gone was always destined to be a tough act to follow. The biggest issue with Something to Tell You is that it follows the band’s formula for success too closely. Individually, the songs are likable enough, and the hooks burst with stadiumtour energy, but the album doesn’t offer enough distinctive storytelling to be memorable. “’Cause I got something to tell you, but I don’t know why/ It’s so hard to let you know that we’re not seeing eye to eye,” the sisters harmonize on the title track’s chorus. It’s an apt thesis statement for the album, which revolves entirely around romantic relationships, especially longing and heartbreak.
The 11 tracks all seem to follow a loose narrative structure: the strained realizations between two people who don’t want the same thing at the same time, a struggle for communication, the loneliness that comes with breaking it off for good. Each sister contributed lyrics to the record, and perhaps out of concern for continuity, they seem to follow an unofficial Haim style guide: writing exclusively in second person, telling stories through statements that feel personal but guarded in their choice of language. Their music plays with the idea of vulnerability, but never quite makes the leap. Dealing in generalities isn’t necessarily a fault when crafting a relatable pop song, but most successful songs state familiar feelings in a way that feels original. At times, Haim’s simplistic language feels more like they’re reaching for a medium to support a melody rather than trying to evoke anything genuine.
Still, with Haim’s trademark ’80s shimmer at the heart of the album, it’s hard for the band to veer too far off course. Embracing any era’s “revival” sound means risking getting written off as pastiche, but the trio’s unexpected compositional twists and winningly weird production choices give the record just enough of a modern edge. As on Days Are Gone, Haim is still at its best when it gives tracks a bit of space to sprawl and experiment, as it does in the drawn-out ending of “Ready for You” and in the crashing escalation of “Right Now.” The only disappointment is that the band doesn’t do it more often. It’s moments like these that keep middling tracks from blending together and offer an intriguing direction that warrants exploration on future albums. Though Something to Tell You draws attention to the gap between the Haim sisters’ instrumental prowess and lyrical approach, it showcases, more than anything, that they’re reliable. Promising that the next time the band has something to tell us, Haim gives us multiple reasons to stick around and listen.
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