Haim – Days Are Gone
by Lizzie Hatfield
Haim, comprised of sisters Este, Danielle and Alana Haim alongside their lesser known drummer, Dave Hutton, have a lot to live up to with the release of their debut. Having been picked as BBC’s Sound of 2013 in January, chosen to play huge slots at numerous festivals this year including explosive sets at Reading and Leeds, and achieving success both in the UK, and the other side of the Atlantic, it’s fair to say that we’ve all been keeping an eye on Haim and waiting for their first album to fulfill its full potential. Well now it’s finally here - entitled Days Are Gone. With Haim’s genre having previously been defined as ‘nu-folk-meets-nineties-R&B’, I couldn’t wait to have a listen to this one.
The album kicks off with pre-released single, Falling - I have to say, my favourite track from the band, even after having listened to the album. That’s not to say that the album is all downhill from the off, rather that Falling is a marvellous stand-out track. I’m a sucker for any sort of synth-pop, so the 80s style keyboard combined with Danielle’s powerful vocals and insane percussion makes this song a real winner. It’s already stacked up a ridiculous amount of plays on my iTunes. Following on from this is another single, Forever. The song starts with a punchy synth intro followed by yet more percussion - the sound sort of reminds me of something you’d find on Madonna’s earlier records. Danielle’s staccato vocals accompanied by haunting backing from Este, and complemented by a guitar reminiscent of Michael Jackson back in his Thriller era. An eclectic mix but altogether it works.
Next up, the listener is greeted by a Fleetwood Mac-sounding guitar, backed with a simple drum clap. Yet another single, The Wire, and I’m wondering if I’m ever going to hear some new material from the band. That’s not to say The Wire isn’t a welcome listen - another hit song that really showcases the girls’ ability to harmonise effectively. However, I can’t help but question the choice of tracklisting, and find it odd that I’m sitting through three songs I’ve already heard before getting to the real meat of this album I’ve been waiting for for so long.
I was happy then, to hear the unfamiliar and sugar-sweet introduction of If I Could Change Your Mind. Upon first listen I loved this track - extremely simple but very pleasant to listen to and a similar sound to that of earlier track, Falling. Yet upon more listens I find myself already getting bored with the song; it almost seems too simple for Haim and I can’t help but label it as a filler. Leading on from this, however, is a sound unheard from Haim before. Honey & I opens with a rolling guitar riff that instantly conjures pictures of summer, blue skies, green grass etc etc. It all seems a little too sweet for Haim, and while the track does go somewhere and picks up at the end, it is only very slightly. The song does have redeeming features though - the sound suits the band a lot, but I feel the track never really reaches its full potential and that if the girls can embrace what they were going for on this track and take it somewhere further, perhaps combined with their signature combination of harmonies and percussion, the result could be magnificent.
Next up is another single, and a favourite of mine, Don’t Save Me. Wonderfully poppy, irresistibly catchy and very easy to sing along to, this song is 100% fun to listen to, and you don’t tire of it either. Once again bringing in synth-pop and a chorus that could have been pulled right out of the 80s, this track is a highlight. It is followed strongly by brand new track, and album namesake, Days Are Gone. Controversially opening with vocals from Alana, this song has more of a contemporary feel, and is complemented by brilliant production which ensures the listener picks up on every single backing instrument and harmony within the track.
My Song 5 is the most interesting track by far on the album, being both musically and lyrically intriguing. The girls demonstrate how bizarre yet effective their music can really be, combining shrieky vocals with almost dubstep backing, an insane bass line, and angry lyrics, “I’ve been lied to… Honey, I’m not your honey pie”. This is followed by familar track, Go Slow, which definitely changes the pace and sets a more mellow mood. This one is definitely a grower - I found it slightly repetitive at first, but now it’s hard not to grab my hairbrush and sing along pretending I’m in some sort of 80s power ballad music video.
The next song is one I was familiar with due to the girls’ spectacular live performances of it - Let Me Go. The song opens with a low cello, angsty vocals and ends in a spectacular crash of drums, leaving the listener with a chill. The only thing that could top it is the live version itself, which brings with it an explosive drum solo with long hair flying everywhere. Album closer, Running If You Call My Name, opens with eerie vocals and a plunky beat reminiscent of pop band, Chairlift. The song seems like it belongs on the soundtrack of a John Hughes film, a perfect tune to complement the credits of The Breakfast Club or something. And a perfect choice to close the album, as the song has this sense of finality to it - I particularly adore the upbeat guitar riff that fades out alongside Danielle’s vocals as the album comes to an end.
Overall, these girls (and guy) have most definitely pulled the hat out of the bag, and I for one am thoroughly impressed with their debut effort. Something which Haim really need recognition for is the fact that every song on their album is so different, and could almost be pulled from entirely different genres, yet the band’s sound as a whole is so cohesive and recognisable. This in itself is an achievement that some bands strive towards for years, yet this bunch have managed it on the first attempt.