You can’t help but wonder what studio time with the Haim sisters is like. Especially when the studio is primarily their parents’ living room in their San Fernando Valley childhood home. It could quite easily be a recipe for disaster. But listening to their sophomore studio album, “Something To Tell You,” released last week, it’s hard to imagine that it was anything but pure harmony. There couldn’t possibly be room for sibling rivalry to ensue when the result is 11 songs, totaling 42 soulful minutes, of Danielle, Este, and Alana banded together in a record that already stands the test of time.
The sisters first made their way on to the scene four years ago, in 2013, with their debut “Days Are Gone.” It was a hit to say the least. Just a year after its release Pitchfork went so far as to name it one of the best albums of the decade so far. For many artists, attempting to re-create debut magic is intimidating if not thought of as near impossible. But it can also be a dangerous move to step out of the spotlight once you’ve found yourself in it.
Yet, if anything, the four year gap allowed for their debut to age gracefully and made room for their follow-up to arrive all on it’s own.
Last summer is when we first got a taste of what Haim had been stirring up with live performances of what would come to be tracks entitled “Little of Your Love” and “Nothing’s Wrong.” Now, fast forward an entire summer, and the new album has arrived in all it’s glory. With help from their trusted producer Ariel Rechtshaid, and with friend, and former Vampire Weekender, Rostam Batmanglij, they have returned with an album that, though not strikingly different from “Days Are Gone,” doesn’t need to be because when it’s good it’s good.
The album gets off to a very Haim start with “Want You Back.” It’s a cheery, finger-snapping, choreographed dance inducing number that reacquaints you with the sisters. This nostalgia for 2013 Haim persists a few songs into the album. Then, however, the album comes into its own with tracks like “Walking Away,” with the band trading in its signature reliance on percussion for a much more sultry and breathy vocal arrangement. Lines like “Nothing you can say to make me rethink/ Every chance that we had and messed up,” delivered by Danielle, sneak up in between slippery echoes of the repeated lyric “Walking away” from Este and Alana.
What ties the album together, between spots of rock, hints of R&B, and moments of throwback pop, is Haim’s strong grip on who they are. They have a keen awareness of themselves, both the good and the bad, that they pour into their lyrics. On “Want You Back,” for example, they take the blame for agreeing to “take the fall and the fault in us/I’ll give you all the love I never gave before.” And on the title track, “Something To Tell You,” they stand their ground with lines like “‘Cause in the end I was innocent/I let you know that it’s no good.” Even among their confidence, however, they showcase their vulnerability on “Kept Me Crying,” admitting that “If you call me, I’ll pick up/No, I shouldn’t, but I can’t give you up.” These may be subtle lyrics, but they’re still signs of a band growing up gracefully.
Listen to the band’s two albums, and they’ll blend into each other seamlessly, a marker of Haim’s undeniable identity as modern day soft rockers. Their sound directly echoes their taste for rich retro melodies and they are able to revive harmonies that were thought to have lived and died with idols of a different era. And it’s precisely Haim’s fluid approach to both and past and present that make “Something to Tell You” something to listen to for years to come.