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Haim: Classic or Dud?

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog so far with music from the 1960s and 1970s, and it’s always a relatively easy task; generally I find that most artists that have stood the test of time for 40 years are well worth getting to know. Covering acts from current times is trickier – we’re in an era with easy access to recording technology, and there’s so much music out there in so many sub-genres that it’s possible that brilliant albums will be lost in the flood.

I’ve recently been enjoying the music of the Californian sister trio Haim. I find them interesting because they blur the boundaries between radio friendly pop and a rock band who play their own instruments and have a reputation as a good live act. I’m not implying that radio friendly pop is intrinsically bad and all rock is intrinsically good – if anything, mainstream rock music is out of steam, and taking a pop angle to it is a good way to revitalise it. Haim’s music videos illustrate this tension well too; the video to ‘The Wire’ veers between teen pop drama and serious live band shots:

Este (bass), Danielle (lead vocals, guitar), and Alana (guitar, keyboards) Haim released their debut album, Days Are Gone, in 2013, and returned in 2017 with Something To Tell You. The main attraction for me is that they sing beautifully – Danielle has a pretty voice, and their sister harmonies are lovely. They know their way around a hook, but their lyrics often feel perfunctory.  The chorus from the first single from Something To Tell You are smoothly metered, but ultimately just a carefully constructed platform for their harmonies.

Just know that I want you back
Just know that I want you back
Just know that I want you
I’ll take the fall and the fault in us
I’ll give you all the love I never gave before I left you

Lindsey Buckingham era Fleetwood Mac are a common frame of reference – Haim have the harmony-laden, radio friendly pop-rock sound down pat, and add rhythms that are derived from R&B. But unlike Fleetwood Mac at their best, they don’t have the emotional undertow to their work yet. They do have some interesting arrangements – ‘Night So Long’ from Something To Tell You revolves around a single, effect laden guitar, and I also like this minimal, live in studio version of ‘Right Now’.

I’d like Haim to succeed – they’re refreshingly real, especially Este and her “bass face” and have an effortless musicality. I don’t think either of their albums so far are the masterpiece that they’re hopefully capable of, but I’ll keep on watching. Their defenders compare them to Lindsey Buckingham era Fleetwood Mac, their detractors compare them to Wilson Phillips. What do you think?

11 thoughts on “Haim: Classic or Dud? Leave a comment

  1. I don’t know the albums. They have some enjoyable pop singles. The new dance video for Little of Your Love elevates the music for sure. When I listen to the same song as stand-alone audio it isn’t half as fun. Probably their music is good disco music. Right Now I hadn’t heard until today, I like the minimal production and it feels a bit darker.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Haim sneaked into ears back in 2013 when the radio station I listened to played the singles and I ended up getting their first album toward the end of the year. It’s a really good listen and I agree with you – “harmony-laden, radio friendly pop-rock” and plenty of hook. Though I think ‘Honey & I’ really needs to give Peter Townshend a credit as it sounds uncanily like it’s ripping off his ‘Let My Love Open The Door’.
    BUT… I think they suffered from its delayed success and the lengthened cycle and so the follow up took too long and, to my ears, doesn’t really catch.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It does seem to be the common opinion that the second album doesn’t measure up. I don’t really mind the poppy sound too much – I barely listen to radio, so I kind of like having a bit of pop in my life. Does take away their identity a little though.

      Like

  3. I quite liked Days Are Gone, but Something To Tell You veered way too much into pop territory for me.

    I am not saying the album is bad. I am just saying that given I do not like pop music, I am not exactly well-suited to evaluate such a record.

    Liked by 1 person

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