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Reviews

Haim
Days Are Gone Marc Burrows , October 4th, 2013 11:14

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-level style and LA cool, and a ready made story. On its own that's enough to make the average major label A&R wet themselves. But there's more, and this is the important stuff: They're great. Not just decent singers, because the world is full of those, but skilled musicians well versed in music theory and practice. Bassist Este has a degree in Ethnomusicology, guitarist Danielle has played session guitar and drums for a Cee-Lo green and Julian Casablancas, and you suspect youngest sister and multi-instrumentalist Alana would have achieved just as much or more had she not joined Haim before she could get around to any of it.

Credibility, cool, talent and instinct. There's more though, because they've also got the songs. Days Are Gone, their long-in-the-baking debut album, is properly great, sounding effortless and breezy in a way that only something worked over like a jewel can. They have great taste in music too - the record is a hodgepodge of grown up pop borrowed from the best, slick and consciously tasteful but never over-glossy, empty or trite. When you first hear about Haim you expect the Jonas Sisters, what you get is Prince And The Next Power Generation.

Only 21st century bands get to sound like this. Access during their formative years to the entire history of recorded music via the internet, and the ability to pick and choose whatever they like mean Haim are part of a generation that exists outside of genre entirely. They were listening to En Vogue, Nirvana, Eurythmics and Kiss at exactly the same time. You can’t even say for sure what kind of band they are, in the old 20th century which-rack-in-Virgin-Megastore way. They’re certainly 'pop', but then outside of Cannibal Corpse and Throbbing Gristle practically everyone is. If you’ve ever seen Haim live you can say with some surety that they're a ‘rock band’- guitar, bass, drums, riffs, jams and solos all present. Days Are Gone cover far more bases though- its rhythm tracks and beats are rooted in the trio's beloved 90s R&B, as well as the soft-rock they're often accused of. The sisters’ harmonies, as well, nod to early Destiny’s Child, and the album is littered with plosives like “cha!” and “pah!” that suggest some fondness for Michael Jackson’s golden era.

We should address the Fleetwood Mac issue while we’re here. “Haim sound like Fleetwood Mac,” has become such a trope of their coverage, it’s practically the first line of any of their press. It’s unavoidably true, though it’s not the emotive, volatile Rumours era that crops up, nor, is it the blues-rock of 60s Mac, despite the killer cover of ‘Oh Well’ the band regularly pull out live. Days Are Gone most often hits somewhere between the Christine McVie dominated end of the soft-rock tastic 80s Tango In The Night record and Stevie Nick’s slick solo material of the same era. It’s most obvious in the vocal lines on ‘If I Could Change Your Mind’, which has that wonderful Mcvie melancholy undercutting a scattershot beat. Indeed, after breezing through a killer run of singles (‘Forever’, ‘Falling’, ‘The Wire’, in the first three songs alone), Days Are Gone wallows quite beautifully in 80s pop ballad territory in its last third, playing the same ground Tegan & Sara covered so beautifully earlier this year, nodding to the Bangles and the Go Go’s.

If there’s one fault, it’s that smushing brilliant pop and rock influences together can sometimes create a love letter to the 80s and 90s rather than something genuinely forward thinking, though at its peaks - the opening run of singles for starters - the sisters do manage to feel genuinely fresh. Most interesting of all is the robotic ‘My Song 5’, all squelchy wop-wop dubstep bass and hard rock guitar riffing, over robotic vocals suggesting Haim haven’t yet finished collecting influences. The future, it seems, sounds like the all of the past happening at the same time.

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