Hailed as BBC’s Sound of 2013, this year has already been HAIM’s breakthrough year. With singles Don’t Save Me and The Wire gaining plenty of radio play, the LA trio of sisters are fast becoming the hottest indie-folk band around. Comparisons to Fleetwood Mac have been plentiful and their debut album certainly has essence of the retro soft-rock but with a lot of modern day additions. Talking about the new album, Ann Powers of NPR commented that:
“HAIM’s thoughtful, playful music is good for the radio, good for rock and good for music lovers of all ages who need to carve out a little space to dream.”
Opening with recent single Falling, we’re off to a familiar start. Funky guitar and a soft melodic vocal leads us into the undeniably catchy chorus with the word “falling” jumping back out at you. An atmospheric riff with trippy drums top off this chill out track, which drifts nicely into their first single Forever. Staccato drums and a folksy clicking with the same pop vocals join another trippy rhythm. These unpredictable stairs that are just thrown in show their R&B influences and simply adds another dimension to their music.
Perhaps the catchiest song on the album is The Wire. The singing twangy guitar and perfect harmonies depict the strongest Fleetwood Mac similarity on the record. It’s quirky, fun and tongue-in-cheek with a great guitar solo at the end. In fact, HAIM go from the sassy dumpers to sad victims of unrequited love on If I Could Change Your Mind. Slow synths and calm drums illustrate the change in mood but the funky electronic riff in the back keeps up the energy. The kooky breakdown shows the vocals clashing of the deep lead and the glistening sighing of the backing voices.
The glitches continue in Honey And I, where the guitar squeaks alongside fast running drums. Some pretty chimes and quirky distorted vocals in the chorus give a nod to the hip hop side of the band who revert back to folk in the interlude. The backing vocals sing back the atmospheric “oh oh oh oh”s as the largely urban sounding song continues. This clashing of genres leaks into the beginning of Don’t Save Me with its deep electronic bass and trippy vocals. Once again, a catchy melody stops it being a jumbled mess with a quirky rhythm keeping it cool.
The title track has a great bouncing folk intro with a melodic sassy vocal again. Electronic chimes are present again and the atmospheric chanting of the chorus is reminiscent of the summer festivals, where HAIM grew their fanbase this year. It’s a repetitive chill out song with rippling vocals which seem to trip over the rhythm. Another trip is taken on My Song 5, which has the quirky broken record effect in abundance. Strong drums see the deep whimsical vocals dragged over dark and dreamy instruments. Rolling singing guitars darken by the end and the harmonies begin to be haunted by the weird slow-motion theme.
Kicking back with the growing synths and a relaxed guitar, Go Slow brings some soft whispery vocals. There are trippy moments but it’s dedicated to atmospheric harmonies and calming, dreamy soundscapes. It’s a great live track that is guaranteed to captivate thousands. The constant buzz of Let Me Go may be jarring to some but its simple humble nature is really beautiful. Folksy harmonies and soft vocal are tinged with a dark edge. The tribal electronics and dark indie guitar solo have a sinister character but we’re left on a high with a playful ascending keyboard to end.
Ending on Running If You Call My Name, a beautiful captivating ballad, the band know how to make us want more. Catchy resonating vocals and a simple drum are all that is needed to create the simple repetitive chorus. The synth shimmers add an extra sprinkle of magic and this pretty chill-out song ends in a climax of strong drums and intricate electronic patterns laid out on the invisible canvas.
I love how HAIM’s singles haven’t really given much of the album away. They’re not all about the upbeat indiepop that is The Wire or the brooding Don’t Save Me -they have much more of an edge than the run-of-the-mill indie-folk-pop hybrids that are so numerous at the moment. I wasn’t expecting to hear so much electronic work and there’s nothing better than an album that surprises.