Perfect pop, indie edge
Can you sound too perfect?
It’s a question that Haim – the sunny sisters, singer-guitarist Danielle, guitarist Alana and bassist Este Haim – must run into a lot. The harmonies on their surprising 2013 debut Days Are
Gone were so immaculate, as they harked back to the 70s rock of The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, that it almost felt too good to be true. For their follow-up, Something
to Tell You (★★★★), the Haim sisters have added a bit of an edge, with help from producers/ collaborators Ariel Rechtshaid and Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij. Even the first single, Want You
Back, where the harmonies eventually grow into a gleaming tower of stacked vocals rising skyward, Haim looks to shake the classic-rock feel by adding a modern twist, in this case, a bit of R&B phrasing. On Little of Your
Love, they turn a simple girl-group outing on its head, with wild guitar riffs, echoing production and stray bits of noise. Ready for
You is structured like 90s R&B, until the sunny guitar chords and weird vocal-melting bridge kick in.
Occasionally, it seems like all the additional instrumentation is simply there to distract from the harmonies, when the song would have been better served by removing the harmonies and letting Danielle (or another Haim) sing it alone, like in the ironically titled Found It in the Silence, which is overstuffed on every level. But all that inventiveness keeps
Something to Tell You from sliding into the predictable blandness that eventually comes with consistently pretty harmonies. And it makes Haim an unfettered success. – Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
Isbell goes Nashville
Much has been made of Jason Isbell’s new album The Nashville
Sound (★★★★), the sixth since he was kicked out of Drive-By Truckers for his constant drinking.
Booze is only mentioned in two tracks, although demons continue to haunt – witness the raunchy
Anxiety or Tupelo, which mirror the sentiments of Speed Trap Town from his Something More
Than Free album. The title of this album is a misnomer – there are no steel guitars or honky-tonk piano. It’s not even an Outlaw album, or even a roots disc, yet it retains enough road fatigue, down-on-your-luck, common-man themes and the thought that the next town will hold salvation. These are all themes that make Southern American music what it is. It’s the white man’s blues territory and nobody mines it better than Isbell, Ryan Adams or James McMurtry.