Nearly four years after their commercial debut Days Are Gone propelled the Los Angeles-based sister trio into top ten album charts in eight countries, HAIM return with their second full-length outing Something To Tell You.
With the success of Days Are Gone, the band (comprised of lead vocalist and guitarist Danielle, keyboardist and guitarist Alana, and bassist Este) spent two years on tour. Decompressing from life on the road and getting into the right frame of mind to write new material for the follow-up proved to be a bit of a challenge. "All we knew for two years was wake up, soundcheck, play the show, go to sleep and fit in a slice of pizza at some point," Alana recently told Rolling Stone. "We needed to turn our brains from touring brains back to writing brains. When we came home, we literally got off the bus, took a nap and went right into the studio."
After a few uninspiring creative months, the group was asked to quickly write a song for inclusion in the Amy Schumer film Trainwreck, which eventually evolved into future album cut "Little of Your Love.” Although it wasn't ultimately used for the soundtrack, the exercise was the flashpoint they needed to move forward. "We got back to just 'write how you're feeling'," explained Alana. "After that, we wrote hundreds of songs. It was like vomit."
The world got a small taste of what was to come on Something To Tell You when HAIM performed the set's lead single "Want You Back" and "Little of Your Love" as musical guests on Saturday Night Live back in May. Their stage presence that night—confident, focused, passionate, quirky—seems to be an accurate extension of their studio work.
It's actually quite a good thing that Something To Tell You continues where its predecessor left off, with unabashedly sun-kissed SoCal pop defined by thick layers of gated reverb drum claps, bright keys, jaunty bass, and playful guitars. That's not to say that the album is one-note; there is nuance to spare, certainly. There is something deliciously retro about it, and the abundant comparisons of the band to classic Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles are fair enough. But there's also a nouveau sheen that's decidedly 2017, and primary producer Ariel Rechtshaid (Usher, Adele, Solange Knowles, Plain White Ts) does well in not letting anything become throwback kitsch.
"Want You Back" is a solid album opener with an irresistibly sing-able chorus, punched up with synth hiccups, bass slaps, and gobs of interesting vocal ad-libs ("Little of Your Love" follows in a similar vein). The mid-tempo chug and meshed harmonies on "Nothing's Wrong" comes rather close to being a Christine McVie standard, but it's so well executed that the craftiness outweighs whatever mimicry might be implied. "Ready for You" is a smidge funkier with its syncopated rim click groove and big Eighties chorus.
HAIM wait until after the album's mid-point for a complete change of pace with "You Never Know.” The drum beat fattens and steadies, drizzled lightly with acoustic guitar and buoyed by a dense, rubbery bass line and a perfectly restrained vocal. Things amp back up somewhat with the fantastic "Kept Me Crying" and its defiant shuffle that builds toward a buzzy electric guitar coda.
The album closes with the beautiful "Night So Long,” a stark departure from the warm glow of the rest of its track list. It's introspective, if not woeful ("I say goodbye to love again / in loneliness my only friend"), but "Night..." is a phenomenal showcase for Danielle's rich alto lead.
All told, Something To Tell You is good pop music: it's memorable, balanced, and believable. There's a level of musicianship and care that's tangible here, and the Haim sisters have capably employed their evolving singing and songwriting prowess in nearly all the right places.
And while sticking to what they already do well is more than likely going to help them to avoid the oft-feared industry sophomore slump, it will be intriguing to see if the band uses their forward momentum and obvious competence to take a few more risks next time around. Until then, this stuff is going to make a lot of people's summer playlists, and pack a lot of enthusiastic crowds into HAIM's inevitable major world tour.
Notable Tracks: “Kept Me Crying” | “Night So Long” | “Want You Back” | “You Never Knew”