It’s been a while since we’ve heard from the Haim sisters – Este, Danielle and Alana – and they’ve marked their return with an album that takes the listener on that typical pop journey of love, loss and all the in betweens. Haim rode the waves of hype from their 2012 Forever EP, and 2013’s Days Are Gone for nearly four years by finding their niche in the pop leaning indie rock scene where female harmonies and Fleetwood Mac leaning instrumentals were in demand. With the release of follow-up LP Something To Tell You, there’s a question mark over whether this formula still fits into the bigger musical picture.
Immediately you notice that this album doesn’t experiment far beyond the parameters that Days Are Gone set, and even regresses slightly – where Days Are Gone punches, Something To Tell You is a gentler affair. While ‘Little Of Your Love’, released as a promotional single, promised a bit of Shania Twain-esque country pop – and doesn’t sound like it would be amiss on a Little Mix album (not an insult, by the way) – the album itself is pretty safe in that it tends to repeatedly fall back on its indie pop laurels, and doesn’t offer much beyond that. This is disappointing for those expecting songs more in the vein of ‘Days Are Gone’, or ‘My Song 5’, over standard fodder. This album is far more accessible to a general audience, if Haim could have ever been described as inaccessible. The songs here feel like they’re designed to played on a festival main stage at 7pm. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s not really an exciting thing is it? And that’s exactly what Something To Tell You is missing out on – a sprinkle of excitement. The songs aren’t bad, but could have been on any album, by any pop artist who’s ever met Jack Antonoff – which isn’t surprising, considering both Taylor Swift and Lorde are close friends with the band – and most of the tracks could have easily been B-sides from Days Are Gone.
Despite not offering much in terms of surprises, Something To Tell You doesn’t fail to offer some easy pop bangers which are bound to float around the top 40 for the foreseeable future. This is no surprise given some of the names attached to the album, including Dev Hynes and Rostam Batmanglij, with the latter producing the bouncy and eminently catchy ‘Little Of Your Love’.
Something To Tell You is immaculately polished to the point of genericity, which is a shame because if you watch Haim live, the sisters display a raw and fun energy, something which is lost to overproduction here. The sisters revealed to Rolling Stone that they tried to avoid ‘studio fuckery’ and over-production here, but the album is still full of digital fuss and polish, leaving that live energy lost somewhere deep in the mix.
Haim’s debut took 7 years to perfect and was a solid, welcome indie pop offering. Something To Tell You just falls slightly short of the bar that its predecessor set. What it lacks in uniqueness and character, it makes up for in-paint-by-numbers pop, and those unmistakable harmonies. So this is not a bad album by any means; it’s carefully constructed pop goodness that’ll probably filter it’s way into a lot of ‘office radio’ and ‘feel good summer tunes’ playlist, especially tracks like opener ‘Want You Back’, which feels like it’s designed to be heard live. It’s always tricky for a band, especially one as hyped as Haim, to deliver a solid sophomore album. Here, they’ve delivered a solid pop album, but one that leaves you wanting something more, something fresher. Certain songs do hint at something like this, and make you wish the band had just taken that small extra step into riskier territory. Especially tracks like ‘Ready For You’ with its ear worm chorus, and its space-age bridge, or the sombre ‘Right Now’, later on in the album. The title track is a particular stand-out, with its soft, building guitars and note-perfect harmonies. It reminds you of what made Haim special in the first place.
Something To Tell You tries to take us on a journey we’ve already been on a thousand times, to the tune of impressive but ultimately by-the-numbers indie pop tunes. Haim were a breath of fresh air in a male-dominated indie scene when they debuted and, as anyone who has seen them live can attest, they’re fun, hugely talented and passionate performers who care about their craft. Something To Tell You, however, makes you wonder if they got bogged down in their own hype and in perfectionism, resulting in an album that is perfectly polished, perfectly fine, but lacking in anything new to say. Aoife O’Donoghue