Monday, July 10, 2017

Something to Tell You | Haim

When an act stumbles upon a gap in the spectrum of popular music and sticks the landing in it, the world goes wild. For Haim, a trio of sisters Danielle, Este, and Alana, a female-powered approach to sunny soft rock on their 2013 debut, Days Are Gone, was the ticket to viral popularity and near-the-top festival billing. Comparisons to Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles in every introductory article to the band made the Haim women favorites among the elitist indie rock community, though the major-label outfit has Calvin Harris and A$AP Ferg collaborations and an opening gig for a Taylor Swift tour under its belt.

Regardless, when acts like Haim do something so well the first time, there's a fork in the road of expectations for a follow-up. They are to double down in what they know best or to exhibit versatility in their capabilities, two double-edged options upon which artists must walk fine lines. Switching gears often leads to some fans' alienation but can be well-received, yet staying in the same lane can give listeners an impression that there's a push to replicate the priceless magic of a debut album and can render external fears of pigeonholing, a concept that music journalists and fans utter more often than artists themselves.

Most of us are, of course, advocates for chameleonic artists – ones like Lady Gaga and Paramore, who refuse to stay in one lane of the musical superhighway. Sonic progression, even drastic in nature, is no sin. What is lacking, however, is an appreciation for those artists who are confident in their niche, carrying the same fundamentals from one album to the next and tweaking as needed to keep the spark alive. Perhaps that is what makes Haim's sophomore record so endearing; the sisters call back writer-producer Ariel Rechtshaid and lay into their nostalgic pop-rock groove, but they ensure enough evolution to return like a fresh breeze.

Something to Tell You is low maintenance, rhythm-heavy, and effortlessly rad, juxtaposing its lyrics, which are tied up in a few love affairs, by riding a warm Southern California vibe. It doesn't search for the enveloping climaxes that were scattered throughout its predecessor, but instead, it stumbles upon them by surprise. Most originating from an authentic kit rather than a machine, drums keep the otherwise disjointed spurs of energy in form. In the first 80 seconds of "Right Now," for example, Danielle's lyrics seems nearly off-beat over a muted snare, but by the final minute, the dissonance within the soundscape resolves itself in a valley of drums – an explosive climax written for the band's traditional "drum-off" at the close of each live set.

At its core, this record shares genetics with the last: light, acoustic-based rock akin to Fleetwood Mac in its heyday, especially resonating on "Nothing's Wrong," a track that counters its calls to be honest with sparkling production, and the slinky, mid-tempo "You Never Knew." While Danielle still takes the lead vocals, Este and Alana's backing notes are more prominent this time around. "Something to Tell You" finds the two backing members spouting the album's namesake behind Danielle with gusto, and they're just a prevalent on "Little of Your Love," a Haim track that proudly time warps the women back even a few more decades back.

Originally written as a contender for the soundtrack to Amy Schumer's Trainwreck and later previewed during Haim's 2016 North American tour, "Little of Your Love" shines with the fundamentals of '50s doo-wop in its rhythm and instrumentation. Oppositely, lead single "Want You Back," with its melodically focused chorus and subtle use of vocal manipulation, and "Walking Away," a cut that bounces with the rare drum machine, bleed modern pop influences. And through it all, Haim usher it all back into a singular vision: a warm, sepia-toned world from behind their pairs of retro drugstore sunglasses.

As fashionable as they are talented, the Haim women accent those sunglasses with high-waisted jeans and H&M-approved tops. They grew up in the San Fernando Valley, where most of Something to Tell You was recorded on tape in a historic studio that closed in the 1980s and reopened last year as a functional relic. Their music stirs memories of a time that came before both them and most of their listeners. In short, they're cool, but don't let all of the things that make them cool lead you to believe that they have to try to be. They just are. And Something to Tell You is merely a reflection of that.

Something to Tell You is available now under Columbia Records.

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