This personality-fuelled pop album is no awkward indie record, but a big commercial proposition.
Haim Days Are Gone (Polydor) ⋆⋆⋆⋆
Arguably the year’s most eagerly awaited debut, Haim’s opening salvo epitomises the border-free mood of modern pop. One day we might all return to disparate musical tribes, but right now it makes perfect sense that the hottest new band around are an irony-free mix of 1990s R&B and retro soft-rock, aimed primarily at fans of more alternative fare.
Shelve any cynicism and you may even accept that Haim’s journey toward that potentially lucrative sound was entirely organic and uncontrived. It’s an enjoyable story, either way.
Three Californian sisters, Este, Danielle and Alana Haim, grew up in a household so fond of country-flavoured rock that the family formed a (still active) covers band, Rockinhaim, although popular R&B proved equally inspiring for the siblings. Having enjoyed semi-success with the teen outfit The Valli Girls, Danielle then toured with several established pop and indie acts, while Este studied ethnomusicology at UCLA. In 2012, still youthful but considerably wiser, they reconvened with Alana and quickly stirred a perfect storm of personality-fuelled pop.
The Haim sisters may be more calculating than their quirky press pictures suggest, but there’s an unbridled joy to Days Are Gone. As lead singer and guitarist, Danielle is the obvious driving force, but interestingly it’s her other contribution – drumming – that makes the most impact, as clattering 1980s-style riffs (Forever) and even a classic Eagles intro (The Wire) put power into their pop. It’s swiftly evident that this is no awkward indie record, but a big commercial proposition.
There are creative treats aplenty, ably abetted by a suitably eclectic production team including Ariel Rechtshaid (Snoop Lion, Usher) and James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Klaxons). Don’t Save Me – all chugging synths – could be a love theme to the new RoboCop movie. Let Me Go is epically inventive dance-pop, while My Song 5 perhaps best illustrates Haim’s inclusive ethos: girl-group harmonies, heavy guitars, even hints of dubstep.
Danielle is dynamic vocally, too, although the comparisons to Stevie Nicks are slightly curious; she actually resembles Fleetwood Mac’s original chanteuse, Christine McVie, on the album’s slower songs. Haim clearly have a wide arsenal, but need to replace retro with future relevance once the hype cools. They’d do well to heed the chorus of their biggest single, Falling: “Never look back.”