Before l listened to Haim’s second album, Something To Tell You, I’d never heard of them. Despite a chart-topping debut, the trio of American sisters, whose second name doubles as the band’s name, have thus far escaped my attention.
A little half-hearted research reveals that their debut LP, Days Are Gone, was serenaded with critical kudos. Their live shows are lauded as rocking – despite a proud distinction from the hot, buttered poppiness of their studio efforts – and their approach is unique, human and occasionally self-effacing enough to endear us. Their firm grounding in modern music, hooks, harmonies and heartbreak, rewards almost everyone from the casual listener to the doe-eyed fan.
In short, they are kind of a big deal and there is a fair amount riding on their second album.
Choosing the opening track of an album is one of the most vital tasks of the editing process; this is the banner, the marching orders and the word to the masses to sit the fuck up and listen. Haim, however, choose to go for something that challenges the listeners and manipulates their expectations by opening with the Michael Jackson-esque and soulful feel of ‘Want You Back’. It’s a vibe that, despite being prevalent throughout the record, is most evident here.
It’s a confident track, but the spacious use of the stereo spectrum and its use of the somewhat unimaginative harmonies, means the song sadly falls a bit flat. Indeed, the production is both a saviour and a hindrance, but it will surely attract a larger audience than a group of artists left to their own devices would. There’s a synthetic aftertaste to the opening number, which severely undermines both the artistic talent of Haim and the genuine soulfulness of their expression. A soulfulness that now, post-production, rears its head a lot less often than is desirable.
The album’s second track, ‘Nothing’s Wrong’, is a personal favourite and an undiluted success. The sensual guitar is slinky and it sounds like Viv Albertine playing guitar for The Slits in the 21st century.
The strong melodies of this record, coupled with some great guitar and bass playing, are its saving grace. Danielle’s powerful, stoic, lower-range voice is its crowning jewel and an asset that sets the sound apart from its counterparts.
Where it lacks, is the production. The album is smothered by what feels like a myriad of producers, and the demotion of Haim’s great guitar sound to a position well behind Nu-R&B sensibilities is a shame. The tracks ripple with real imagination, but most fall short of achieving the greatness that those occasional moments of glory suggest they are truly capable of.
WORDS BY CHARLIE WHYTOCK