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Haim - Something To Tell You (Album Review)

Monday, 10 July 2017 Written by Jacob Brookman

What a treat.

Let’s start with the vocals on Haim’s long-awaited second LP, ‘Something to Tell You’, shall we? One reason that sibling pop groups appeal is that the timbre of their voices often match, so when singing together there is an unusually cohesive blend.

That is easy to screw up - with bland songwriting (the Corrs) or unimaginative harmonies (Oasis) - but in the case of Haim you have a consistently thrilling effect. It’s most notable when Danielle, Este and Alana Haim’s harmonies are grouped in tight, rapid phrases as on album opener Want You Back or Little of Your Love.

Secondly, one of Haim’s greatest assets is their rhythmic inventiveness. That’s not just in mixing up time signatures and tempos, but also in their melodic phrasing. It is most at play on the brilliant blue-eyed soul cut Ready For You - which recalls Paul Simon and Steve Winwood during the late ‘80s - and on the power ballad Right Now.

The latter demonstrates a tantric discipline in its pared-back rimshot finale and, on an album laden with crunchy, groovy beats, that really is all the more effective.

We can talk about production, too. Haim are credited as exec-producers, while frequent collaborator Ariel Rechtshaid, who helmed their debut, ‘Days Are Gone’, returns and is complemented by contributions from ex-Vampire Weekend man Rostam Batmanglij, Twin Shadow and BloodPop.

This mix results in a fair share of gimmicky synth stabs, but the album never feels overproduced and its sound remains compelling and colourful. It's a cogent extension of the ‘80s pop revivalism that underpinned ‘Days Are Gone’ and is no worse for it.

‘Something To Tell You’ is not perfect (You Never Knew sounds too much like Fleetwood Mac for comfort) but the more general criticism of Haim - that the music is derivative -  is a bit of a red herring. Most songwriters start a song trying to write something that sounds a bit like something else.

The challenge with Haim is that they don’t always cover their tracks well enough, but that is nothing compared to the cynical market fundamentalism of most out and out pop acts. And it’s also nothing compared to the many delights to be found here.

The superb musicianship (guitar solo, anyone?), the breaking up of textures (see Kept Me Crying and Walking Away), and the lead vocals of Danielle Haim are all laser-guided pop spectacles. The latter factor has gone under-celebrated up to now, possibly due to the relative emotional consistency in the lyrical content, but hers is an extraordinary voice: storied and soulful in the best possible way. Like the album as a whole, it’s absolutely superb.

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