Album: Haim – “Days are gone” (2013)

Haim? Who are Haim? Or more accurately, why would I know anything about them? Well I’m not sure really, I first heard of them when they topped the BBC’s speculative Sound of 2013 poll as likely to be the coolest act of the year ahead, according to ‘music industry experts’, whoever they are. I don’t usually pay much attention to those polls as there’s a bit of a vested interest here, like the “Critic’s Choice” BRIT award, just an award to someone a big label is crazy keen on getting some promo for ahead of the launch.

haim days are goneI hadn’t been blown away by the first songs I heard, though I remember being surprised how reasonable it sounded instead of the usual try-hard stuff that gets shoved down our necks now, naming no names (except Sam Smith, Jake Bugg etc.).

I finally heard “The Wire” and really enjoyed it, and felt that listening to something critically acclaimed wouldn’t kill me probably. So here we are.

09 Falling – I think this was the first song I heard, now I think about it. I like the vocals, breathy and gasping, almost like Michael Jackson in places. There’s a surprising note of 90s R’n’B in there, not what I expected from the music critics’ latest big hope. It’s a minimal track but it sneaks in a surprising amount of heart and melody in there, before that chorus lifts everything up. A great start.

07 Forever – A slightly rockier note starts this off, and it looks like we need to acquire the taste for that voice. Not that I dislike it, but the prospect of a whole album sounds a bit intimidating. Another single but perhaps not as commercial as “Falling”. Didn’t quite get on board with this, pleasant as it is.

10 The Wire – Now THIS is fantastic. From its glam-rock intro to the Fleetwood Mack-esque melody. A killer hook too, the drily delivered “I know I know I know I know, you’re gonna be OK anyway”. I loved the video too, it lent the band a great sense of humour and accessibility rather than aloof style over substance. Their finest hour so far, and we’re only on track 3.

08 If I could change your mind – I love that urgent tempo shivering away in the background, there’s a great pace to this one. I wondered if the lead vocal’s less-is-more approach might mean sacrificing some of the emotion, but this proves it wrong. A strong chorus there, full of yearning and desperation.

06 Honey & I – I wonder if this album will turn out to be more of a summer album. Certainly tracks like this sound like they’d fit better in the sunshine. A pleasant listen, but this is perhaps one step over the line in minimalism, it’s been stripped of too much of its melody. It’s fine but not one of my favourites.

07 Don’t save me – This is more like it, straight into an almost Motown-sounding backing. I’m not sure how to describe it, but I like it a lot. It sounds richer and more melodic. It’s very hard to get a lock on exactly what Haim sound like, just when I think “Oh, that’s a bit Fleetwood Mack” or “That’s a bit glamrock” there’s something else mixed in. That chorus line isn’t my favourite but I like the song a lot more than “Honey & I”. Is that maybe a bit of Kate Bush in there?

08 Days are gone – Great little synth flourishes on this one. The vocals are a bit disaffected and clipped, it’s almost like a different band. I’m getting bored of me trying to name artists they sound like, can’t I just enjoy it? Maybe that’s part of the fun though, and it never feels like they are plagiarising or mimicking, it’s more that they’ve just an intriguing mix of influences that makes them sound simultaneously modern and classic. Love that “Days are gone, huhh, days are gone, HUHH!” hook too.

08 My song 5 – Now I always remember this one, a bluesy trudge with that black-as-tar synth squelching around in the background, mimicking the “honey I’m not your honey pie” kiss-off line. I love the attitude here, it just seems to come so easily to the girls. It might be an odd one but it definitely sticks in my head.

06 Go slow – Running out of steam a little now, or maybe my interest is starting to drift. It’s not their fault, this isn’t really the sort of music I tend to listen to at length. It’s listenable enough but doesn’t grab me like some of their others have.

07 Let me go – A breathy chant sets the scene, and I love the defiant tone she pulls on parts of this. It’s a slow burner but once it gets some momentum it gets 10x more interesting. I guess she wants to be let go, right?

06 Running if you call my name – Last track now, it feels like going out on a whimper rather than a bang, even if it’s a tuneful bit of tragedy. Or at least I think so, I think she wants to leave her lover but she doesn’t need much to get her going straight back again. Its alright but a bit of a monotonous one to finish off, I’m left only remembering the chorus line and nothing else.

Well that’s a pleasant surprise really. I’m a little fascinated by female rock groups, and my curiosity was rewarded on this occasion. Out of my comfort zone, I didn’t perhaps appreciate the album as much as some would, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t an enjoyable listen. If anything, it’s given me “The Wire”, which is fantastic. So I’ll keep an ear out for new material just for that.

Keepers for the iPod: Falling, The Wire, If I could change your mind, Days are gone, My song 5.

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