Haim – a trio of L.A. sisters with an endearing backstory and a bunch of immaculately catchy songs – blew up pretty much out of nowhere with their 2013 debut, Days Are Gone. Singer-guitarist Danielle, bassist Este and keyboardist-guitarist Alana Haim were only in their early twenties, but they’d been playing together for years, starting out as kids in a band with their parents called Rockinhaim, then cycling through folk and teen pop before landing on Days Are Gone’s unlikely retro confluence: the Fleetwood Mac of Tango in the Night, the Eagles of The Long Run, Eighties VH1 and Nineties R&B, Kate Bush and Shania Twain. You had to go back pretty far – maybe to the Go-Go’s’ Beauty and the Beat – to find California pop-rock gold so cannily sleek yet youthfully charming.
It’s taken Haim four years to deliver a follow-up LP, and you can hear the studied sense of craft all over Something to Tell You, recorded mainly in their parents’ living room with assistance from Vampire Weekend studio-auteur-turned-pop-superproducer Rostam Batmanglij and Haim’s longtime collaborator Ariel Rechtshaid. These songs don’t always explode with the sunny ebullience of the first LP, but the melodies, beats and ideas are layered and piled high, like a couch-pillow fort.
The best moments are strung between soft rock and soul, as if Jimmy Jam or Quincy Jones helmed a late-Eighties Fleetwood Mac record: “Want You Back” sounds like a love-hungry Christine McVie ballad as re-imagined by Bad-era Michael Jackson; “Walking Away” is a plaintive R&B ghost; “Little of Your Love” is like Come on Over-era Shania tried to write a TLC song and it turned out awesome.
Haim are such formal whiz kids, it’s easy to overlook the real emotion in their songs. Danielle’s singing and lyric writing balance openhearted romantic affliction with tough determination – Nicks-ian drama via McVie-style blues stoicism. “I was your friend/Now I’m only just someone you call when it’s late enough to forget,” she sings on the stripped-down stomper “Kept Me Crying,” a moody echo of their Eagles-steeped hit “The Wire,” delivering abjection with guts as Danielle’s sisters’ voices back her up like a gang.
sibling togetherness is what’s most fun about this band, a sense of being at
one another’s sides in a world where all the guys are “two-faced but too
numb to know it.” This perfectly manicured LP ends with a raw moment,
Danielle singing about loneliness, “my only friend,” on the spare “Night
So Long.” But even in darkness, Haim have one another.