It’s been four years since Este, Danielle and Alana Haim first dazzled the world with their special kind of soul-infused, retro pop-rock. Every year of their absence since the release of Days Are Gone has been felt. Perhaps the weight of expectation, following the well-deserved plaudits for their brilliant debut, left them in no rush to release a sophomore. In the meantime, the sisters could be seen on tour, making comedic cameos, collaborating with Calvin Harris, and as part of the line-up for Saturday Night Live’s 40th anniversary celebration, alongside the likes of the late, great Prince.
The errant siblings are back this summer with Something to Tell You. Album opener and first single ‘Want You Back’ is a strong indicator of the project as a whole. It continues where they left off: solid and ingeniously simple songwriting, skilfully arranged. Days Are Gone was an intimidatingly impressive debut. Something doesn’t give the same instant-yet-long-lasting rush, but neither is it too far-off. One advantage it has over its predecessor is even more lyrical maturity. The girls no longer rely so much on the poetry of sound. Their lyrics are more considered.
Middle sister, lead vocalist and cool chick archetype, Danielle’s now immediately recognisable contralto dominates more than ever. It’s perfectly suited to the melancholy defiance that has come to typify the sisters’ output. Topically, the girls haven’t strayed far from their go-to romance theme. But there is a little twist. Something to Tell You plays like parallel, non-chronological accounts of a stormy love affair that take divergent courses – Sliding Doors meets Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, if you will. Love is sought, won and (soon to be) lost. Depending on which timeline is followed, either reconciliation is on the horizon (‘Ready for You’, ‘Want You Back’) or there is resolute acceptance it could never be.
The sparse and elegiac outro, ‘Night So Long’, follows that rueful trajectory. Lyrically, it has the melodramatic resignation of The Carpenters’ ‘Goodbye to Love’ or jazz standard, ‘I’m Thru with Love’. Elsewhere, one party is in constant, heart-breaking denial (‘Nothing’s Wrong’ and the fabulous gated-drum extravaganza that is the title track). Still, a familiar resilience prevails on ambient coup de maître, ‘Right Now’, a great showcase of the sisters’ multi-instrumental abilities. ‘You Never Knew’ – Haim’s most overt nod to Tango in the Night-era Fleetwood Mac – and anthem to newly appreciated independence ‘Found It in Silence’ are similarly plucky. It’s so good you had more to tell us, ladies. You’ve been missed.
Something to Tell You is out now on Haim Productions/Polydor Records.
If you like this artist, check out: Warpaint; Courtney Barnett
Image: courtesy of Haim