Sensual, alluring, and riotous core sounds like the future.
Haim – Days Are Gone
It’s understandable to have trouble taking a band seriously when its bassist uses the handle “@jizziemcguire” on Twitter. No, Este Haim, one of three sisters comprising Haim (hence the band name), hasn’t changed at all now that she’s in the spotlight; according to Spin’s recent cover story on the band, she shouted her phone number – not a fake one, but her real ten digits – to a fan in the crowd at, of all giant events, the iTunes Festival. If Este and her sisters share similar traits, as sisters are likely to, then it might be logical that the Haim women display their true selves at all times. Perhaps they do so out of oblivion; maybe it’s due to apathy, or possibly a lack of restraint. Regardless of cause, the sisters’ devotion to their true selves – specifically, their desire to please only themselves – proves to be an unlikely asset on their debut, Days Are Gone. Lacking pretense and boasting forward-thinking, yet backwards-looking, songwriting, the album is a thrilling joy ride for its entire forty-four minutes.
Rather than indulging in experimentation or trying to advance an unprecedented sound, Days Are Gone reaches back in time. It sounds nostalgic for the 70s and 80s, and often embodies the R&B-meets-soft-rock spirit of Fleetwood Mac’s legendary Rumours. Danielle and Alana Haim frequently lay down smooth, deep guitar lines that maintain a sensual feel, all while escaping the low-tempo range with which such a mood is often associated. This contrast works particularly well on “Don’t Save Me,” a track on which palm muted notes originating from the lower strings of guitars mesh with thin, bright synths and Danielle’s soulful voice to form a cohesive, touching piece of music. “If I Could Change Your Mind” displays similar instrumentation, its guitars remaining sleek and low-key until the chorus centers their sounds via a flickering, yet fierce, quasi-ska riff.
Danielle and Alana aren’t only interested in restraining their instruments, though: in its verses, recent single “The Wire” employs the same sort of rolling, classic-rock notes as other tracks, but its intro and choruses see the guitars gaining a treble-filled edge missing in other tracks. “Honey & I” boldly ventures into calypso guitar lines, resulting in a tropical, sexy experience; the bluesy, post-chorus six-string stomp of “Let Me Go” might be almost as unexpected as the harmonized guitar solo that emerges near the song’s end.
Of course, the album isn’t entirely a guitar-based affair. At times, the synths bear equal, if not greater, weight; bass comes along for the ride too, albeit less frequently. “My Song 5” best demonstrates what Haim can achieve with a good synth riff: the track gets by on a massive, warped, wobbling digital bit that provides the proper backing for Danielle Haim’s pop-star-attitude vocals. Silvery keyboard tones propel the intro of “Forever”; actually, it’s this very track on which Este Haim’s bass takes flight. It rips through the verses, contrasting the backseat role it plays throughout much of the album.
Indeed, on Days Are Gone, little more than the basics is present in the way of instrumentation, but it all exudes confidence. The Haim sisters understand that excessive experimentation may not always be necessary; they revel in the music of times past without blatantly copying it. Although they gather varying well-established styles into one sound, their blend of music stands entirely on its own. Days Are Gone may have firm roots in what once was, but its sensual, alluring, and riotous core sounds like the future.