Hi there. If you’re reading this review – posted nearly a month after the formal release date of Something to Tell You on Columbia –
There’s a good chance you already know some of the standard biographical information you find in any article about HAIM.
- This trio of sisters has made music together their entire lives.
- They used to be in a family band with their parents.
- One of them is known for her extra-expressive “bass face.”
- The youngest goes by the super-twee nickname of “Baby Haim.”
- They harmonize very well.
- Their collective aesthetic is one-half Laurel Canyon folk and one-half Stevie Nicks.
- They love Ms. Nicks. A lot.
And there’s nothing wrong with those things! I’ve been a fan of these women and the unbelievably pristine pop-rock they create since they dropped their debut Forever EP back in 2012. I’m just tired of reading those facts (and more!) in every single time someone mentions HAIM and their music.
Instead, I’m going to talk about what actually connects me to HAIM’s songs and sounds – especially since there’s nothing else quite like it in my daily musical diet.
I can trace my affection for peppy vocal pop-rock of this nature to all the Contemporary Christian Music I listened to in my adolescence. In the heart of the ‘90s, the CCM charts were nearly taken over by single-gender vocal groups. While the male groups fused southern gospel with Hall & Oates, the female groups opted for a Christian version of Wilson Phillips, the Go-Go’s, and/or the Bangles – complete with fun, upbeat tunes and stellar four-part harmonies. But while groups like Point of Grace and Sierra were never my favorites, it was hard to escape their peppy band of vocal pop while listening to Christian radio in the ‘90s.
And suffice to say, I could probably write a book about how the music of Amy Grant has shaped my tastes.
Granted, I know now those Christian acts weren’t doing anything interesting or unique. I also know that the mainstream groups they copied were themselves fusing the music of Fleetwood Mac, ‘60s girl groups, and Shaka Khan into a radio-friendly format that would sell a shit-ton of singles. But the fact remains – without treacly Christian pop from the ‘80s and ‘90s, I might not like HAIM.
Then again, as the oldest of four musically inclined brothers who used to play concerts together at youth group lock-ins in the early ‘00s, I also have a soft spot for siblings with a strong relationship who choose to create art together.
So, now that you have a little context for why HAIM resonates in my dark, little post-evangelical soul, let’s actually explore the music of Something to Tell You!
This eleven-song record overflows with impeccable musicianship and killer hooks. On any given track, you can hear dashes of yacht rock, R&B, and ‘80s pop coalesce into a lively whole that’s catchy and down-to-earth. HAIM makes no apologies for the large debt it owes to the careers of Stevie Nicks, Jenny Lewis, Paula Adbul, Carole King, and Sheryl Crow – but instead of sounding generic or derivative, the music pulses with an abundance of energy and creativity that push pop into exciting new directions.
Stellar vocal harmonies are this trio’s calling card, but it’s closely followed by superb bass runs, taut arrangements, and the crisp production of Ariel Rechtshaid and Rostam Batmanglij. I’m also enamored with the strong, yet subtle guitar chops, shimmering keyboard swells, and overall bouncy feel that’s supported by curious electronic undertones. All of this speaks to a trio that’s aware of the “sophomore slump” tag hanging over their heads.
So instead of recreating the pop charm of 2013’s Days are Gone, HAIM leans into it by choosing quirky production that pushes the envelope into new directions without seeming forced.
My primary quibble with Something to Tell You is the track listing. The record is completely front-loaded with grooves, soul, and intrigue, while the second half is mostly above-average pop-rock songs lacking edge and flair. It’s not that “Found in Silence,” “Walking Away,” or “Right Now” are bad, but placed back-to-back-to-back, the intensity of the album plateaus. I prefer projects that display more variety in tone, speed, and flavor from one tune to the next – to me, that level of nuance always evinces greater maturity and discipline.
Speaking of maturity, I love the lyrics and themes discussed throughout this project. Busted relationships will always be fodder for creating art, but it’s refreshing to hear such honest admissions of heartbreak coupled with agency, accountability, and openness. There’s nothing obsequious, sappy, or sad-sack on display. Instead, we’re treated to tunes sung by grownup women wanting a coequal and grownup relationship with a grownup partner. “Want You Back, “Nothing’s Wrong,” “Little of Your Love,” and “Ready for You” reflect personal stories filled with honest emotions and a desire for open communication about those emotions.
So, let’s reflect:
- It’s easy to let hype sour you to a band’s sound.
- How we fall in love with a given aesthetic can come from an unlikely source.
- Growing up is hard to do, but it’s important.
- Pay attention to the details.
If you like fun pop music, excellent bass work, relatable lyrics about broken hearts, and/or talented siblings who make art together, I encourage you to give Something to Tell You by HAIM a chance – even if you’re tired of music publications obnoxiously fawning over them while rehashing the same story of the band’s origins.