Release Date: Sep 30, 2013
Record label: Columbia
Fleetwood Mac. Fleetwood Mac. Fleetwood Mac. (Repeat ad nauseam.) While much has been said about HAIM (including comparisons to TLC and the use of the puzzling phrase "esoteric pop"), it's Stevie Nicks and gang who have seemed to haunt nearly every piece of press since we first wrapped our ears around the Forever EP in February of last year.
HaimDays Are Gone[Columbia / Polydor; 2013]By Brendan Frank; October 2, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetCombining existing sounds in different ways can be nearly as exciting as finding new ones. This isn’t lost on California sister act Haim (HIGH-yim). Their sound can find a kindred spirit in every decade since pop music has come into existence.
Before Danielle and Este Haim were riding motorbikes in the sun, catching fish with their bare hands, or making potential suitors weep with heartache, they were Valli Girls. The Los Angeles sisters played guitar and bass, respectively, in the tween-pop quintet that was assembled and signed to major label Columbia in 2004, with 1980s soft-rock linchpin Richard Marx attached as a creative contributor. The results were decidedly mixed: there was the acoustic melodrama of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants soundtrack cut "Always There in You", the cruelly ironic "Born to Lead" ("My independent voice will have its say"), and most notoriously, "It's a Hair Thing", the dog whistle-pitched theme song for the short-lived animated TV show "Trollz".
The internet made music more accessible, but radio still has power to influence our collective consciousness. It can anoint an artist as commercially viable or shape mainstream trends, pushing dance divas into David Guetta's pitch-shifted ghetto or rappers to imitate Drake's singsongy flow. Haim's debut, Days Are Gone, is influenced by the radio in the best way possible.
When did it become socially acceptable to admit to enjoying Fleetwood Mac? As a child of the 80s, I remember how derisively they were referenced, as corporate divorce AOR, before dad rock was even invented as a pejorative term for that kind of thing. Their albums littered dollar record bins the world over, long before record collecting came back in vogue. Nowadays, you can pop into any Urban Outfitters and pick up a pristine 140-gram copy of Tusk for $44.98.
It’d be hard to truly dislike Haim. They’re an eminently likeable, albeit slightly kooky, trio whose story already bears the frisson of legend. Three multi-talented siblings—Danielle, Alana and Este—who were baptised in the dark arts of rock ‘n’ roll by their own parents. Yes, when sensible teens were swotting for exams Haim’s folks had them rockin’ from dusk ‘til dawn in their family combo “Rockinhaim”.
Goofing around with Haim: it has become something of an international sport. One of their first videos found the sisters riding mopeds around LA, intercut with home movies of themselves as kids. Live, the girls trade ribald quips; eldest, bass-playing stateswoman Este Haim – she of the ethnomusicology degree – regularly pulls the kind of orgasmic gargoyle gurns last seen painted on to Kiss.
There is nothing cool about Haim's music, and that's why it's so refreshing. While many of their contemporaries engaged in a contest to find the most obscure influences, and '80s revivalists sucked synth-pop and new wave dry, the Haim sisters dug up the decade's biggest, poppiest sounds and fashioned a captivating debut album out of them. Days Are Gone sounds all the more unusual precisely because it's so mainstream; a list of their influences -- Stevie Nicks, Phil Collins, En Vogue, Shania Twain -- looks like a glance at the Top 40 from about 25 years before the album's release.
After what feels like forever, the debut Haim album is finally here. It will come as a shock to fans of their live show, won over by their raw mix of blues guitar, close vocal harmony and big sister Este’s ‘bass face’. ‘Days Are Gone’ comprises some of their best live tracks (‘Forever’, ‘The Wire’, ‘Let Me Go’) and some songs that haven’t been played live (‘If I Could Change Your Mind’, ‘Days Are Gone’, ‘My Song 5’) and lacquers them all with a thick coat of studio gloss.Part of the reason the wait has seemed so long is that Este, Danielle and Alana hit the jackpot relatively early.
HAIM might seem like they've been the next big thing for the past year, but they put this band together way back in 2006. The sisters Haim (Danielle, Este and Alana) originally supported their dad's group as kids, and their genetic chemistry shines through on Days Are Gone. Having released a handful of too-good-to-be-true singles, HAIM were on point to turn in a classic debut, and they've come very close.
The title of Haim's debut album apparently refers to the amount of time it took to make. Days Are Gone was refined and tweaked by the Haim sisters under pressure to get it released, but given that it arrives barely a year after the band's debut single, that possibly tells you more about their label's sense of urgency than the LA trio's painstaking perfectionism: we're not exactly dealing with the protracted gestation of Kate Bush's Aerial here. Perhaps the record company's eagerness is understandable.
Even when their ‘Forever’ EP was a wee glint flickering and barely registering on transatlantic radars, it wasn’t mere speculation to picture big things. Indeed, just one year later, Haim are occupying double-page review spreads, and hanging out with Kate Moss, Cara Delevingne and urm, Philip Green during London Fashion Week. Danielle, Este and Alana Haim spent the summer performing headline-worthy sets, the pinnacle being their over-brimming tent at Reading Festival.
When knocking a pop song into shape, the finished product is always going to bear the marks of its influences. How a band or artist distinguishes the work is in the shading or smoothing over of those imprints. The idea, as far as I understood it, was to imbue in the listener the feeling of “Oh, this song reminds me of that song.
Looking back, HAIM’s fevered success is a little ridiculous. In the past nine months alone, the three California sisters have topped BBC’s Sound of 2013 poll, signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation, trumped a few hundred thousand bands at SXSW, collaborated with Kid Cudi and Major Lazer, toured with Vampire Weekend and Mumford & Sons, appeared on-stage with Primal Scream, won a diverse crew of fans that includes everyone from Katy Perry, to David Letterman, to Angel Haze, and graced the lineup to pretty much every major music festival across the globe. Those are only the major highlights; in between, they’ve done little things like, y’know, performing for UK prime ministers, learning French from Phoenix, and nabbing cover stories with Spin and LA Weekly.
HAIM's debut, Days Are Gone, is an impeccably crafted fusion of late-'80s and '90s pop influences, with the most innovative tracks integrating rock n' roll staples with lighter, seemingly incongruous references to bubble-gum pop and girl-group R&B: “The Wire” opens with a rallying stomp-clap rhythm and a teasingly spare electric guitar line, building to a staccato, string-laden chorus that recalls the disco-inflected hook of Carly Rae Jepson's ubiquitous earworm “Call Me Maybe,” while “My Song 5,” a dramatic departure from the rest of the album, modulates between a sludgy mix of distorted guitar effects and effervescent, Destiny's Child-esque harmonies, resulting in an uncanny stylistic friction between vocals and backing music. For all the inventiveness with which HAIM repurposes retro elements, though, their lyrics tend to rely on the type of hackneyed similes (“Felt like I was walking on a tight rope”) and empty near-rhymes (“If you want to see me baby please/Been holding on for eternity”) that pop music has been peddling for decades. The vocals in a song like “Falling” accomplish little more than adding another layer to the instrumental mix, as the lines are short and repetitive, including dead-end phrasing like “If it gets rough/It's time to get rough.
Right, there’s your obligatory Fleetwood Mac reference. Apparently you’re not a proper music journo unless, when writing about California’s Haim, you simply toss off lazy comparisons to the Seventies' finest 'soft rock cocaine enthusiasts' (cf. Partridge). So that’s my credentials established, yeah? Good.
Haim are three twentysomething sisters (and an unrelated drummer) from Los Angeles who grew up playing in a band with their mom and dad. And if that isn't cute enough for you, their charming debut recalls the dancy side of Eighties Top 40 radio as an AstroTurf Eden of chewy synths, neon-cheese guitar quake and slick, airy melodies. Its single "Falling" could roll proud alongside "Bette Davis Eyes" and "Don't You Want Me" at Skateville in 1983.
It’s easy, even tempting, to write off HAIM as a flavor of the season—the songs are too catchy to just be a flavor of the month. Their catchy choruses, pop song structures, and breezy, care-free sound and lyrics make them feel like an old friend—or rather a group of old friends named Stevie, Lindsey, Christine, John, and Mick, or maybe T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chilli. But the pop guise and choruses occasionally pass “catchy” to approach “memorable” and the more unique verses, which feature prominent basslines and R&B influences as well as the song-of-the year-contender My Song 5, elevate Days Are Gone to something more noteworthy.
It’s somewhere in the middle of Days Are Gone’s third track (and recent single) The Wire that you realise just how atypical Haim are as a 2013 buzz band. Feted by acts as diverse as The xx and Katy Perry, the Californian band has appeared in endless promo shots which look lifted straight from Hipstamatic while being the name on the lips of taste makers for well over a year. It’s something of a surprise, then, to hear them sounding like mega-selling country-pop star Shania Twain.
The three long-haired sisters of L.A.'s Haim look as if they're from the 1960s, crib lyrics from the 1970s and prize musical tricks from the 1980s. Yet the trio's major-label debut, "Days Are Gone," may be the freshest-sounding album you'll hear all year. How does that work? Background and context both figure into it. Este, Danielle and Alana Haim grew up in the San Fernando Valley playing in a cover band, Rockinhaim, with their parents, who taught them to love -- and to study -- the timeless songwriting verities embedded in tunes by the Beatles and the Eagles.
opinion byJEAN-LUC MARSH Somewhere in between the endless sunshine, glassy surf, and noxious smog, Los Angeles has formed itself into a launch pad for upcoming musicians. Indeed, the City of Angels has long been fertile ground for nascent talent. However, in exporting its artistic aptitude to the world, Los Angeles has yet to find a singular sound that defines it, remaining too large a place to be confined by the simple conventions of genre.
There's something suspiciously perfect about Haim. As a pop proposition they're an ongoing alchemical reaction that ticks too many boxes to not be subject to the meddling of some weird higher power. If there was a god of Smash Hits, their hand is definitely at play. Three girls. Sisters. Hipster ….
Like grinning babies, like stringy taffy, like pink sunsets — it’s hard to disagree with Haim. The Los Angeles sister trio — Este, Danielle and Alana Haim — is gloriously synthetic, ruthlessly triggering familiar pleasure centers developed three decades ago. There’s the slightly sinister bubblyness of early Madonna, the erotic power of Pat Benatar, the breathlessness of Sheena Easton or Laura Branigan.
Embarking on this review, I was surprised to read one day that Haim claim to have struggled to be seen as “more than just a girl band”. Now I’m not going to delve into the politically correct – or incorrect – guidelines of what is or isn’t considered sexist in the music industry and/or if that’s even an issue, because a) I am bound to upset someone, which is not the reason I’ve brought this up or b) considering girl band vs boy band (or perhaps, ultimately, girl vs boy) isn’t going to do the trio any favours, since it would probably highlight uncomfortable differences, ideas and opinions which would in turn bring us back to point a) etc. , and quite frankly, walking around in circles is both dizzying and pointless.