Thursday, 13 July 2017

Album Review | Haim | 'Something to Tell You' (2017)

image via haimtheband

I was on target with this review, aiming to have it up on the release day (Friday 7 July). Me being me, however, didn’t think it was good enough to state ‘it sounds so 80s’ without knowing what made music from the decade sound that way.
With six days of research into the history of synthesizers and gated drum reverbs, I understand both the production and inspiration behind Haim’s 2013 debut (Days Are Gone) and their latest release, Something to Tell You. Through this research – and subsequent ‘HAIM vibe’ playlist featured at the end of this review -- feel as though I can contribute an informative and conscientious review. In other words, I now know what I’m talking about rather than displaying a brief ‘omg they sound so 80s’ statement.


If I were being me, this is where I’d type up deep, unneeded information about the backstory behind Haim, where Alana, Danielle and Este grew up, how they got into music … which I am not going to do. I may be fairly new to the Haim train, but I think everyone else on the planet is up to speed from countless articles and interviews with the band since they arrived on the scene in 2013. Being a ‘new’ fan was another reason why this took forever, since I had to sit down and listen to their first album Days Are Gone to compare with Something to Tell You.

With that in mind, let’s jump straight into the record.

I’m going to get this out the way first – yes, you can hear inspiration from Fleetwood Mac throughout both records. There are a number of songs – ‘You Never Knew’, ‘Forever’ and ‘Go Slow' – that stand out when related to Mac, but Haim are their own band. Every band is inspired by another, and Alana, Danielle and Este worship numerous artists (haven’t we all). The thing with Haim is that even though you can hear these influences, when you hear one of their tracks you don’t say, ‘Hey, this is that band that sounds like Fleetwood Mac.’ You say, ‘Hey, this is Haim!’

And who are Haim? What is their signature flair?

Percussion, synthesizers, harmonies and rhythm: the four pillars that hold the band’s signature sound together. Days Are Gone introduced this sound and created a solid foundation, but Something to Tell You builds a strong, impermeable sound barrier that future bands will be influenced by. Alana, Danielle and Este can each play multiple instruments, lending to specific songs on the record. Each song has its own world – and in a sense, genre. What sticks throughout the eleven songs on the record is their famed stacked harmonies that keep in time with the drums, peculiar time signatures and percussive abilities and guitar licks that harmonize with the off-beats.

The trio also implement a revitalized 80s production style that has begun to re-emerge in what I like to call ‘pop-funk’ through artists such as Bruno Mars. Instead of following the ‘pop-funk’ revival, Haim have created a modernized soft-rock genre that bands such as Fleetwood Mac began carving out in the late 60s/early 70s, whilst also incorporating aspects of the funk, new wave, synth pop, and electronic genres. Days Are Gone stuck to a more soft-rock/indie rhetoric, but Something to Tell You (a record that Haim began writing in 2015) mixes all these genres into a unique melting pot that enabled them to build upon the style they had already established for themselves.

Alana’s expertise and flair with her Korg MicroKORG Synthesizer/Vocoder (link to Equip Board page) and Roland SPD-SX Sampling Pad is what adds that distinctive – and weirdly nostalgic – 80s feel to the majority of the tracks on Something to Tell You.

If you take Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Seven Wonders’ as an example, the ambient 3-note synth line that continues through the song that is accompanied by the recognizable 6-note melody (again, on the synth) that is literally strewn throughout every 80s song, making it a staple sound of the decade.

On nearly all eleven songs – whether easily recognizable or not – Alana implements a similar structure. The use of synthesizer is why – this album in particular – sounds like a lost record of the 80s. A lot of reviews of this record that I’ve come across in the past few days describe the songs off Something to Tell You as songs that wouldn’t have been misplaced on a rock station in 1987. Add the trios harmonized vocals, Danielle’s strong, a strong percussive accent, Buckingham-influence guitar solos/melodies and additional reverb, and you’ve got yourself both an 80s ‘classic’ and a signature Haim track. Just listening to the introduction of ‘Nothing’s Wrong’ alone insights a strange 80s nostalgia. Strange since I was born in the mid-90s, like the majority of Haim’s fans.  

The narrative structure of the record is similar to that of artists in the 1980s – relationships, heartbreak and moving on. Like the trio’s vocals, each song answers the other, creating a solid narrative. Whether you’ve been in a good or bad relationship – or are currently in one – Haim give eleven songs-worth of advice, giving you something to tell your significant other. Alana, Danielle and Este enable the listener to learn from their mistakes, making Something to Tell You almost like a self-help guide. Whether it’s from the 50s rock-vibe of ‘Little of your Love’ or the sombre, R&B infused ‘Walking Away’, both songs are an example of the trio wanting love or walking away from troubled love; something we all struggle to do.  

Haim are the sort of musicians that we need to be popular right now. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is fed up with over-produced, label/studio led pop music. We need music created by the people who make and love music. There is so much emotion wrought through Something to Tell You, and that’s because it’s written, performed and produced by multi-talented lovers of music.

As I was researching both Haim and the aura surrounding 80s music, I complied the playlist below. The playlist contains influences of Danielle, Alana and Este (songs I found on playlists they compiled), and songs that reminded me of the new record.

Follow Haim on:

Twitter - @HAIMtheband
Instagram @haimtheband
Facebook @haimtheband


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