It’s kind of difficult to truly dislike Haim – the curious meld of R&B and pop-rock fronted by a trio of sisters who are in one way indebted to Stevie Nicks, yet in another very much their own thing. Their debut, 2013’s Days Are Gone, was the kind of charismatically self-assured beginning that could have only come from people who had grown up in the scene as they had, with their family cover band Rockinhaim and the group Valli Girls. All three started out as drummers, which allowed their masterful latticework of rhythm and groove to be the best part about their introduction. However, their lyrics were awaiting an as yet unforeseen maturation. Their follow-up, Something to Tell You, continues in its predecessor’s footsteps with taut and gleaming instrumentals, but also in its largely pat tales of romance.
The goliath of Fleetwood Mac watching over Alana, Danielle and Este is no understatement – ‘Kept You Crying’ sounds like the sequel to ‘Don’t Stop’ that was never made. Yet, Haim are nothing if not students, and so their influences are as deep as they are varied. ‘Little of Your Love’ is a deep Motown cut, and there’s a bit of George Michael in ‘Ready for You,‘ while ‘You Never Know’ is vintage disco. Ably assisted this time around by producer Ariel Rechtshaid, with a few odds and ends finished by Rostam Batmanglij, Something to Tell You impressively builds upon its layered web of instrumentals.
What this really means is deeply percussive melodies, crisp and constant strumming and a pulse that threatens to infect the world with its ebullience. This ethos is exuded right from the opener and potent single ‘Want You Back.’ And it would be an unforgivable fault not to mention the vocal harmonies, which are absolutely everywhere and positively virtuosic in their execution. These same harmonies are able to take some of the lyrics that would normally scan as offensively safe and lift them up from the dregs of the first draft to something resembling gospel.
There is certainly nothing wrong with tales of romance, indeed, popular music would not be popular without it. However, their abundance requires a specificity to your own tale that allows the pretty listener across the hall to take notice. Were one to just see these lyrics on paper, they would not find that specificity on much of the album. Danielle relates the lyrics with a knowing straightness – of someone who sees the end of the road, and who, on many tracks, wants her last words. There is a welcome clarity here, but it comes at the cost of lived-in storytelling. Instead, they are more moments or flashes than a full experience.
The prime exceptions to this unofficial creative rule are the Dev Hynes co-write ‘You Never Know’ and ‘Kept You Crying.’ The former is a case where the group’s economical take works in their favour, with the other sisters’ harmonies of “You couldn’t take it!” doing much to fill in the gaps of another failed love. The latter has Danielle tearfully hanging on to the phone in the hopeless hope that an ex-lover will answer, as if he even deserves such a conversation. Hewing much closer to experience than other tracks, it is also greatly helped by its earworm-quality stop-step chorus.
To hear that Haim is managed by Jay Z’s label Roc Nation might seem like an awkward placement, that is, until one actually hears them. The trio’s reach runs as wide as an A$AP Ferg remix and an opening spot on Taylor Swift’s 1989 World Tour. While Something to Tell You may dip one toe too many in the well of bitter romance, its entire body is submerged in an utterly joyful and varied, almost unnatural blend that all but promises a bright future for the Haim sisters.
Released July 7th via Polydor Records.