It’s genuinely difficult to find information about the trio of sisters that make up Haim which doesn’t draw attention to their likeness to 70’s soft-rockers Fleetwood Mac. Such affiliation is certainly warranted, and it would be easy to assume Haim is no more than an impersonation of those rock icons they aspire to – but underneath the obvious influences lies a stark, almost outrageous character all their own. It would be impossible to say Haim are presenting a completely fresh sound, but what they have managed to do on their debut album Days Are Gone is take an amalgam of influences, old and new, and create one of the most cohesive, enjoyable and distinctive albums to gain mainstream popularity this year.
The debut is, in many ways, as clean as a rock album could possibly be – sisters Este, Danielle and Alana have been playing together long before receiving any media attention, such as with the hilariously named Rockinhaim (featuring mum & da), and were raised on many of the sounds found on the album – from breezy indie right through to no-frills R&B. After acquiring a drummer in the form of Dash Hutton, the album is well rehearsed and played with a meticulous kind of accuracy that leaves no room for fault. The album features little of the rugged nature of rock as it used to be, instead infusing clean guitars and upbeat bass into the mix, the whole thing polished to a mirror shine.
Danielle Haim’s staccato vocal delivery has a brilliant kick to it, to the point that even on more sedated tracks the band sounds distinctive; ‘Go Slow’ is a prime example, a song leaning on those percussive elements like a crutch, holding up the mellow swells of bass and group vocals. Where they really shine, however, is on the single ‘The Wire’ – the lyrics revolve around an awkward breakup whilst the three sisters sing separate verses to great effect, and the resulting verses are genuinely irresistible, handclaps and all. Other tracks benefit similarly from that combination of energy and restraint in the vocal department; ‘My Song 5’ is a rarity thanks to its big, swaggering personality that leans more into the R&B camp than anywhere else on the album.
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/103092486″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
The most striking thing that must be mentioned is how addictive these tracks are; indeed, they are as sugar-sweet as the vocal melodies and shimmering guitars themselves. Upon a few concentrated listens it’s immediately apparent that this record isn’t going to challenge many listeners – and with that, it becomes easy to look at it as an above-average yet unmemorable release. But then you listen to it again. And again, and again – it’s ridiculously tempting to revisit over and over, yet somehow it never wears itself thin. It’s thoroughly refreshing to witness an album so full of throwbacks to classic artists and yet so completely devoid of any ‘music isn’t cool unless it’s old’ pretention; conversely it’s the first real pop album to appear in quite some time that won’t threaten the credibility of its listeners (should that be a worry?).
Family-based musical groups have had enormous international media attention in the past, and Haim are worthy of as much of it as the Beach Boys or the Jackson 5 ever received in their respective heydays. A staunch claim to make, sure, but a little context; it’s only been one year since debut single ‘Forever’ sent Haim’s feather-light vibes across the blogosphere for the first time, and to widespread excitement from almost all who heard it and thought themselves ‘in’ on the next big thing in popular music. With the release of Days Are Gone and with so many years ahead of them, it seems likely the Haim sisters shall remain a dominating force for some time yet. Aaron Hamilton