I was riding the bus one day in eighth grade when a friend tapped me on the shoulder and asked me what I was listening to. In response, I handed him an earbud. After a few seconds of listening, he declared the song “Kat music”, referring, of course, to the “10 Things I Hate About You” character known to listen to “angry girl music of the indie rock persuasion.” The song which was deserving of such high praise was Haim’s “Don’t Save Me” – one of three singles the sisters had released at the time. These were followed by the 2013 debut Days Are Gone. Now, four years later, they have released their sophomore album Something to Tell You. A four-year hiatus isn’t uncommon for bands anymore, but it was long enough to create nervous tension among fans. Would the band stick to their rock/R&B roots, or would they take on the shiny pop sounds of their friend Taylor Swift? Both turned out to be true, and Something to Tell You proves Haim’s capacity to perfectly meld both of these worlds.
The album’s lead single “Want You Back” is a perfect example of just that – a Fleetwood Mac meets Michael Jackson summer bop that showcases the sisters’ skill as both rock and pop-stars. The excellent music video captures the effortless cool that radiates from Haim – the dance moves, the clothes, the song itself. To reduce Haim to simply “cool”, however, is a disservice to the sisters and the talent they display on the album. While outside help was welcomed, the sisters command the creative process from instruments to lyrics. The largest contributions outside of the family came from producers Ariel Rechtshaid and Rostam Batmanglij (formerly of Vampire Weekend), the latter producing the songs that are arguably the best of the album. One of these, “Walking Away”, is soft-spoken but brilliant, while another, “Kept Me Crying”, is a stomping, Fleetwood Mac-inspired number. Haim has never shied away from Fleetwood Mac comparisons; Stevie Nicks even acted as a mentor this time around. This is most obvious on the Dev Hynes co-written “You Never Knew”, a shiny pop/R&B hybrid that is as derivative as much as it is like their signature sound.
Following Harry Styles’ equally influenced debut album earlier this year, 2017 is turning out to be a year of perfecting old-school rock for the modern ear. On the other side of that coin, however, are Lorde’s Melodrama and Bleachers’ Gone Now, sparkly super-albums defining today’s and future’s pop. Haim’s ability to exist not only in-between, but fully immersed, in both these genres demonstrates why they’re so successful. However, they’ve been in that same position since they began- it’s only more obvious now. It’s slightly disappointing, then, to hear an album that doesn’t extend beyond the ideas they showcased in Days Are Gone. These were my initial thoughts, but after a few listens I realized that Something to Tell You isn’t here to be outwardly revolutionary- its power is in small moments and pure talent.
Written by: Hannah Zwick