Haim = Meh
The only thing you probably need to know about Haim and their new album, Days Are Gone, is the first note I wrote about the music in the first part of the first song that I made during my first listen-through: “Music… for… moms.”
Haim is comprised of three Jewish ‘hip’ sisters from the valley, Alana (21), Danielle (24) and Este (27) (and some random dude who rarely appear in press photos.). It seems as though nothing can be written in the perpetual music hype machine without at least mentioning that angle; which in and of itself should be a warning sign that the music is not interesting or good enough to stand on its own without some sort of sideshow schtick (Yiddish, a little; a piece). Well, surprise, surprise, surprise… the music is not interesting or good enough to stand on its own. It can be pleasant enough if you can put up with some of the dumb lyrics. But the bargain bins of record stores everywhere are littered with the bones of bands that were ‘pleasant enough.’ Haim are destined for a future soundtracking CW shows, underperforming teen comedies, and shoe commercials.
Meantime the group is honored to have met UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Pharrell, Stevie Nicks, Rihanna And Beyoncé. (“I did pee my pants a little when I met her,” Alana later confessed online.) And Jay Z [rapper/producer/promoter/entrepreneur] who is now technically their boss. The pop act now find themselves under Jay Z’s corporate umbrella when their manager, Jon Lieberberg, signed with Roc Nation.
“We met him the first time at some random party or something, basically with our heads down because we’re like, ‘We’re so fucking not worthy,'” recalls Alana, who’s wearing heart-shaped Mrs. Carter decals on her neon-peach fingernails at Made in America, cosmetic art chosen in honor of Queen B’s headlining performance later that night. “He was like, ‘Oh my God, High-im, I love you guys!’ We were like, ‘What? He was like, ‘I’m so excited that you guys are in the company, we’re so excited for you guys, we love you guys.’ It was like a moment when I’m like, ‘I’m totally dreaming.'”
Perhaps you might think I’m being too harsh. Perhaps you’re right. But let’s take a look at the second single from the album. This is what they’re leading off with on their website, replete with a cutesy video. Meanwhile, the only difference between this song and a Shania Twain track is a wardrobe purchased from Urban Outfitters.
The rest of the album is offensive in that it does nothing to provoke us as the listener; no feathers are ruffled, no status quos are challenged. What we are left with is a disc full of songs synthesized to a syrupy goo that is wholly radio-ready and wholly interchangeable. Make no mistake: songs will chart and die a very, very slow death on pop radio.
Haim: “Julian Casablancas [founder and frontman of The Strokes] told us to disappear and come back in a year with better songs.” The Strokes singer gave the sister trio the sound advice when the group opened for him during his solo shows, in which Danielle Haim also played in his backing band. Speaking to The Guardian, Danielle said: “Julian told us: disappear, come back in one year with stronger songs and hit the ground running.”
The other single, “Falling” shows a little more creativity than the average pop song. It’s a relatively fun jaunt compared to the rest of the album and it shows off their Wilson Phillips-y harmonies. It is also twice as long as it needs to be and is such a muted saccharine that it will wear thin after a handful of spins:
I dare you to tell me I’m wrong:
Part of the reason the wait for this debut album has seemed so long is that Este, Danielle and Alana hit the jackpot relatively early. They won young people over with their debut EP ‘Forever’ and some rapturously received performances at 2012’s SXSW. “Their label, Polydor, no doubt sensing they might have hit the jackpot too, wheeled in big-shot producers Ariel Rechtshaid (Major Lazer, Vampire Weekend, Usher) and James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Florence + The Machine, Simian Mobile Disco), who added more bells and whistles than you’ll find in the Hamleys window display at Christmas,” writes NME. By the time Haim released their big summer single, ‘The Wire’, it had mutated into a hammy slice of country-pop, complete with string section and Auto-Tuned coda. Puzzled bloggers noted that it sounded like Shania Twain.
Haim are no strangers to pop’s transformative powers, nor to the heavy-handed approach of major record labels. The three sisters were first enlisted by their mum and dad to play classic rock and Motown covers in the family band at children’s hospitals and deli stores at their home in the San Fernando Valley. When Danielle and Este were scouted to play in manufactured girl group Valli Girls, they were prescribed hair extensions and caricature personalities and made to play teen-pop (see the toe-curling videos on YouTube).
Now, they are transformed. Haim’s music is straight power pop. The thundering drums on ‘Running If You Call My Name’ is totally Phil Collins, while ‘If I Could Change Your Mind’, written by James Ford, is adorned with the kind of glistening synths that wouldn’t be out of place on a Whitney Houston record.
The rat pack of the music industry has been salivating and doing their weasel wiener dance (insert Redfoo from LMFAO’s “wiggle dance”) over this group. But in reality nothing on this album seems genuine in the least, there are some pleasant moments… much in the same way that a credit card commercial can make you smirk. I have a hard time believing that any artist could follow their muse to this sort of a sonic conclusion; if they’re not at least 25% money-motivated or manufactured by a manager/label/marketing company/department store, then I don’t want to live in this world anymore.
Have a nice day!