The best things come in three: the HAIM sisters, their third studio album, and its trio of bonus tracks.
The Southern-California-based trio oozes glossy surf-rock sunshine and has bottled up the feeling of cruising down Highway 1 with the windows down in their most adventurous and cathartic record to date, Women In Music Pt. III. If you’re wondering ‘WTF is a HAIM?’, the band (named after their surname) is comprised of Danielle (lead vocals), Este (bass), and Alana (guitar and keyboard), who have been refining their bubbly and breezy West Coast sound since they entered the music scene in 2013.
On WIMPIII, the trio has blossomed into their full potential. Over the course of 16 songs, HAIM embraces their smooth pop-rock sound whilst adding in some country twang (‘Hallelujah’), embrace experimental distortions and synths (‘All That Ever Mattered’), introduce some jazzy sax (‘Los Angeles,’ ‘Summer Girl’), whilst diving into a more R&B groove (‘3 AM’). This is all fuzed together with slick electric guitar and stripped back drums as the backbone, filled with juicy and well-timed harmonies and Danielle’s gritty lead vocals at the forefront.
HAIM have solidified their sun-kissed carefree and relaxed sound in their first two records, but they’re digging deeper into their range and emotions on WIMPIII. The record opens with an unexpected sax riff, which effortlessly switches to a steady drumbeat that introduces bittersweet ‘Los Angeles.’ There’s still the chilled So-Cal vibe, but as the trio has grown older, they’re questioning their hometown roots, opening with “Los Angeles, give me a miracle / I just want out from this,” as they toy with the idea of moving away against a vibrant, jazzy underscore.
What’s so great about Women In Music Pt. III is that HAIM is no longer afraid to stay in the indie-pop mold they had carved out. It’s their most bold work to date because they aren’t held back by the notion that they have to be or sound a certain way. On ‘Up From a Dream,’ Danielle’s vocals are sultry and nuanced, but she incorporates a folkier and country twang on ‘Leaning On You,’ showing the many qualities of her luscious voice. They’re willing to try something new and make it their own, even if it doesn’t work. While the jazz is a welcomed addition, the addition of deep-cut R&B track ‘3 AM’ feels out of place on the groovy record, and the dizzy synths and glitchy, electronic instrumentation on ‘I Know Alone’ feels like it’s trying to be 1975, but at least it’s always been to be daring than to be boring.
There’s a certain folky, nostalgic quality to the record, but it stays modern with playful synths and bubbly basslines alongside refreshing lyrics. When HAIM incorporates elements of 70’s soft rock into their music, they’re typically met with Fleetwood Mac comparisons. Their debut Days Are Gone was Kate Bush-esque, a collection of 80’s-inspired gritty and saucy rock-pop tunes, while 2017’s Something To Tell You utilized softer elements of 70’s music that paved the way for WIMPIII. The latest record, with 70’s roots, has a Joni Mitchell quality to it. Soft-strumming ‘Man on the Magazine’ has a guitar chord progression that would make Mitchell proud, all while touching on sexism and all the obstacles the trio has faced as female musicians in an all-female band.
The whole record is a cheeky and subtle middle finger to the male-dominated music industry. Even the album’s title plays with the idea of being women in music, a spoof on the commentary of ‘women in rock’ or ‘women in pop music.’ Like the motifs included in the album, it’s all done in good taste and with a sense of humour, with the album’s cover having the girls pose in front of a plethora of sausages and a cheeky 69 in a deli shop, a homage to the fact that their first gig was in a deli.
Throughout the record, the band creates a compelling juxtaposition by using themes of mental health and depression against fuzzy, warm beats. In ‘I Know Alone,’ Danielle confronts her battle with depression, touching on dark and lonely times, ‘I don’t wanna feel at all / ‘Cause nights turn into days / That turn to grey,’ she sings against sparkling synths. In summer-bummer jazzy track ‘I’ve Been Down’ Danielle tries to find her way out of her dark hole, admitting her emotions and asking, “Can you help me out?” Even in their most brooding and dark songs, HAIM always finds a reason to keep trying and fighting for better days.
WIMPIII is sure to have you grooving along, either in the car on the way to the store or learning dance routines from the trio on their Zoom dance classes. Being vulnerable and discussing deep topics like mental health journeys is never easy, but by leaning into darker thoughts, the trio is able to reach a richer, more emotive side that enabled HAIM to create a liberating, untamed rock record.
Haim’s Women In Music Pt. III is released this Friday, June 26th via Polydor Records, pre-order or pre-add the album now.