Everybody Loves Haim

Haim

Technically, it may not count as prog, but how can you — or anybody, for that matter — not love it?

Tom Breihan has a superb review over at Stereogum:

It can be tough to describe the music on Days Are Gone because it doesn’t fit neatly into any pre-ordained template, and it doesn’t have much to do with any internet micro-trend that’s currently grubbing attention for itself. There’s nothing remotely indie rock about HAIM. They absolutely leapfrogged the whole crusty-clubs circuit, and they’ll probably be playing near the top of festival bills by next summer. And their sound is lush and incandescent; it sounds expensive. In a less enlightened time, they’d be written off as corporate-pop anointed ones and dismissed accordingly. And they are corporate-pop anointed ones; their debut album is, after all, a major-label affair. But they also seem loose and unguarded and unforced in ways that would’ve made them look like complete aliens at, say, this year’s VMAs.

The one comparison that HAIM keep drawing is Fleetwood Mac, and that one makes sense; there’s plenty of that band’s sweeping studio-rat elegance in what they do. But there’s other stuff at work, too. “The Wire” and “Don’t Save Me” some of the oldies-radio glam-rock shuffle of T. Rex. In Este Haim’s full and rubbery basslines and in the widescreen shuffle of their beats, there’s more than a hint of Off The Wall-era Michael Jackson. The entire history of ’80s soft-rock radio lives in the emotive synth-dissolve of “Go Slow.” And plenty of the influences are newer, too. The sisters love to talk about R&B girl groups like TLC and Destiny’s Child, and when newer bands talk about those groups, they’re usually using the name-checks as a shorthand to describe a sort of lush digital sensuality. But with HAIM, what matters is the vocals themselves — the way one will take the lead and the other two will answer her parts back, or the ways that the voices will rhythmically push the music around into some unexpected places. And then there’s “My Song 5,” which is built on a gut-scraping computerized dubstep fuzz-bass but which never does anything obvious with it. And even when those more recent sounds aren’t apparent, they never sound like hacky ’70s-rock revivalists. Those older sounds, for them, are just a means, never an end unto themselves.

Their sound might be a hard thing to pin down, but it’s just impossibly easy to enjoy. Consider “Falling,” which sounded great at first and which has now grown on me to the point where I think it’s one of the year’s fullest and most accomplished pop songs. It’s an intricate song: The primly snappy backing vocals, the liquid rhythm section, the expertly-placed wafts of keyboard, the bluesily tossed-off guitar leads. But if you aren’t paying close attention, you aren’t noticing all the small and minute decisions that go into a song like this. You’re letting it wash over you, breathing it in, feeling the way it sighs and flutters. It’s a product of countless hours of tinkering and arrangement and studio work, and yet it sounds effortless. So does the rest of the album. It’s not an album that tries to push pop music forward or to carve out new subgenre space of its own. Instead, it’s an album that uses the entire history of pop music as a playground where none of the equipment is off-limits.

One thought on “Everybody Loves Haim

  1. Pingback: Days Are Gone (Best of 2013 — Part 13) | Progarchy: Pointing toward Proghalla

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