After delaying the release due to COVID-19, HAIM have finally unveiled what is the album of the summer. And it’s worth the wait, writes Emily Calder.
The HAIM sisters have come a long way from their more pop-inspired, but still excellent, first album, and their newest release, Women in Music Pt. III, shows a musical maturity and a whimsical new sound we hadn’t heard them explore before. The bright tones and lyrics of Los Angeles and Summer Girl paint the perfect soundtrack for a hazy summer day; the confident yet gentle guitar and the occasional injection of the saxophone not only provide the musical equivalent of a warm summer breeze, but are a testament to the maturity the sisters have developed over the course of three albums.
A track that particularly stuck with me is I Know Alone. Written and recorded before the days of social distancing and isolation, the subject “I know alone like no one else does” — featuring lines like “been a couple days since I’ve been out” — seems to have taken on a whole new meaning in the current global climate. The song’s jumpy and unpredictable musical elements bring both familiarity and a discomfort that will resonate with all of HAIM’s listeners in an album released in one of the strangest and most uncertain times for artistic industries.
Amongst the funky and confident melodies and lyrics of songs like Gasoline is the overlay of sound effects. 3am is layered with a voiceover and distorted male voice, which are soon diminished to reveal a song reminiscent of 90s R&B intertwined with the classic HAIM sound. It certainly throws the listener off, but I can’t help but think that perhaps that was one of the aims of this album. This and the gasping yawn that opens Up From A Dream have a similar vibe, and the intimacy this adds to the track makes the beachy and playful sounds feel more real and immediate.
A particular highlight is another HAIM take on a feminist anthem in Man From the Magazine, the chorus lamenting: ‘I don’t want to hear/It is what it is, it was what it was”. As opposed to the angry empowerment of ‘My Song 5’ in their first album, this short but powerful track feels more like the equivalent of a musical sigh in response to the ongoing misogyny in the music industry. The idea that the HAIM girls have long had enough of inequality in the arts is perhaps in many ways more powerful; there is a sense of resignation that is all the more compelling for its slight passivity.
Another impressive aspect of the album is how HAIM have built on the elements of their sound, which has been praised by critics for being reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac. Perhaps these are most present in the bluesy, guitar-driven tracks such as FUBT and The Steps. Despite this, HAIM’s real talent lies in their ability to play with all forms of genre, and Women In Music Pt. III is a wonderful showcase of this. The R&B nods in 3am, and their more acoustic numbers are proof of the range HAIM are able to embrace both seamlessly and with expertise.
HAIM’s newest album takes us through a journey of both genre and emotion as they tackle both personal issues and wider problems facing females in the music industry. That being said, the sorrowful notes in the album by no means take away from its more joyful parts and breezy and bright charm. No matter how this summer might look for their listeners, HAIM can rest assured that they have delivered an album that will soundtrack both the inevitable joy and sorrow of the warmer months of 2020 perfectly.
Women in Music Pt. III by HAIM is out Friday, June 27.