There are a lot of records that come out that are positioned to capture a moment. Those event albums that define a generation. Los Angeles based Haim have released two records that captured a moment. Their previous two albums, 2013’s Days Are Gone and 2017’s Something To Tell You, were nice enough indie pop albums that bridged the gap between rock ‘n’ roll and pop music. With their new album, Women In Music Pt. III, the three Haim sisters have crafted something that actually captures the feeling of what it is like to be living in our current reality. It is a happy record made by sad people and it is surprising in its honesty. There was nothing they put out prior that would make anyone think they didn’t ‘get it’ but this new record will show everyone that the Haim sisters are talents above and beyond what you would’ve already thought.
The album is bookended by two songs about their home of Los Angeles, California. The opening track, “Los Angeles” kicks the proceedings off with a smooth saxophone blast. The sisters’ perfect harmonies belie the sadness that just lives beneath the surface of the song. It’s a pop hit for sure, but it feels heavy. This is followed up by “The Steps,” which details a relationship that is doomed from the start. The driving drums and loose guitar hook buoy a story about a love affair that fails to connect. There’s a hopefulness to everything on the surface, but when Danielle Haim sings “You Don’t Understand Me” in the songs refrain, it’s palatable. “I Know Alone” comes out of the gates feeling darker, maybe more on the surface than what has been happening so far on the album. When Danielle sings “Some things never change/They never fade/It’s never over/Some things never grow/I know alone like no one else does” it feels hopeless, but it is all wrapped in a beautiful bow. The production on the album, courtesy of Danielle herself, along with Ariel Rechtshaid and Rostam Batmanglij (formerly of Vampire Weekend) is sharp, concise and lets all the parts take up the space they need. “Gasoline” features a beautiful chorus accented by a trip hop-y drum beat and some irresistible harmonies. “3 AM” harkens back to a 90s hip-hop album sketch. The song transitions into a perfectly hooky chorus that floats over an incredibly wonderful acoustic guitar. The vibe of the album is so light, but there is so much going on beneath the surface. When Danielle sings, “Can’t believe that I’m nervous/Mmm, face to face/All our problems on the surface, is it worth this?” in “Don’t Wanna” it actually makes you think, is it? “Now I’m In It” is a huge pop jam. The beat is only bested by the hook of the chorus. “Cause now I’m in it/But I’ve been trying to find my way back for a minute/Damn, I’m in it/And I’ve been trying to find my way back for a minute”. It’s so conversational and infinitely relatable. “Hallelujah” allows the sisters to take a turn expressing a heartbreak they have experienced. Each of them take a verse and it is beautiful and a bit overwhelming to hear. The album closer, “Summer Girl” brings us back to where we started. It’s simultaneously about Los Angeles and Danielle’s relationship with her partner. It actually makes you realize how deft Haim is at songwriting. There are layers upon layers going on here and with each listen, it’s infinitely rewardable.
It’s exceedingly rare that a band’s third album is anything but fodder to keep the brand going, but Haim have exceeded all the expectations with Women In Music Pt. III. The record is a beautiful account of what it is to be young and sensitive in the world today. While it is full of hooks, the thing that will get people the most is the honesty that the sisters show in every song. This is a rare record that is at once the biggest dance party you’ve heard and also the saddest thing as well. If you let it, it’ll touch your heart while you scream sing your lungs out, and honestly, could we ever hope for anything more?
review by Adam Fink