Haim – Women In Music pt. III
There’s a lot to love about Haim. I love their blend of the classic west coast sound with modern pop sensibilities and how it taps into that all too rare universal appeal. You could play a song like ‘If I Could Change Your Mind’ or ‘Want You Back’ pretty much anywhere and be guaranteed to brighten someone’s day. I love the sisters’ carefree and down-to-Earth attitude and how they can even make walking down an empty street into a charismatic and engaging music video. I really wanna see these three shine and make the classic album that I know they are capable of, but this latest offering is pretty far removed from that dream.
You’d be hard pressed to find a better bop than when Haim are on top form, but sadly they haven’t been able to stay firmly at the summit without something determined to drag them back down again. Their last record for instance had some absolute gems but it felt too polished; the overzealous production stripped it of a lot of its charm. There must have been a monkey’s paw in the vicinity twisting my wish when I first listened to it as this follow up has the complete opposite problem. The production here is just an absolute mess. Drums so flat they sound like they’ve been recorded in a padded cell, vocal effects smothering promising melodies at every turn. ‘Another Try’ and ‘All That Ever Mattered’ are probably the worst culprits with vast and jarring arrays of electronic quirks and samples that sounds like all of your neighbors having a party at once. The latter even plays host to banshee wails and an ill-fitting tortured guitar solo. The aimless arrangements have twice as much going on as there needs to be at any given point and often all the elements seem to be actively working against each other.
Even when you get a brief respite from the hyperactive production the band aren’t at their best here. The warm melodies and infectious hooks that Haim excel at are almost completely missing on this latest effort, with the notable exception of album highlight ‘Don’t Wanna’ which offers a welcome reminder of what the band are capable of. There are some other interesting diversions that keep pulling me back though. The gorgeous stripped back folk of ‘Hallelujah’, the Joni Mitchell-esque ‘Man From The Magazine’, and the brilliant ‘Leaning On You’ which is reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Never Going Back Again’ could have been the backbone of a great record. Less is more, and these bare bones tracks with stunning harmonies at their centre show what this album could have been. Sadly here in the darkest timeline however we’re left with tracks like the bizarre R&B of ‘3am’ and the lifeless glam rock of ‘Up From A Dream’ that sound about as out of place as a cat at Crufts.
It’s sadly not a record I see myself wanting to return to in its entirety. There are some playlist worthy golden moments here and there that are worthy of attention, but the album’s faults call out a whole lot louder and drown them out. I still affirm that Haim can make an album that’s solid gold from start to finish. I must say though that after having to sieve through a mountain of silt this time around just for a handful of gold dust, my confidence is a little shaken.