Haim Steps Into a New Groove in ‘Women in Music Pt. III’

Haim makes music with forward momentum, soundtracks to strut safely away from trouble. His most memorable videos feature members of the trio, the sisters Alana, Danielle, and Este Haim, marching past each other, occasionally exploding in playful choreography. It’s a visual trope that allows revisionist fun with girl group iconography, but it’s also a natural extension of their percussive sound. “We like the beat,” Danielle said in a 2013 interview after the release of her debut album, “Days Are Gone.” “All these parts are intertwined.”

But something is happening in “I Know Alone,” a grumpy single from the band’s third album, “Women in Music Pt. III”: Haim is frozen in place. The song’s tempo is also scary and unpredictable; vocals and Synthesizers drip into each other like bleeding watercolors. “I Know Alone” was shot before the lonely days of social estrangement, but their video is an artifact of our months of inertia (“remotely directed by Jake Schreier”): the three sisters meet about six feet away in matching jeans and they move, zombielike, through a surreal and stationary dance routine.

“It’s been a couple of days since I came out,” Danielle sings in her low voice, “Calling all my friends but they won’t answer.” The song is a duo between slow-motion depression and frantic outbreaks of anxiety; Emotionally, Haim has never sounded so stuck. But “I Know Alone”, like much of the new album, clears a welcome path for the group’s sound.

Before the sisters started Haim, they were with Rockinhaim, a multi-generational family band that performed a deep repertoire of classic rock covers and played around their home in the San Fernando Valley. They broke up and started writing their own songs in 2007, but their first accomplished but light-hearted pop-rock singles like “Falling” and “The Wire” felt covered in a sparkle that kept them from cutting too much. Their second album, “Something to Tell You” from 2017, was even more stylish, featuring expertly crafted songs that still lacked the necessary friction. Those interlocking parts fitted together so tightly that no fresh air could enter.

“Women in Music Pt. III however, it starts with a series of sounds that seem to drift through an open window: a baritone saxophone riff, voices listening to hearsay, and a kick drum that doesn’t evoke the perfection of the studio as much as if someone on the street hit a dinghy. garbage . Here, finally, is what is missing in the most hermetic moments of the Haim sound: ambience, personality. “My city, which I just returned from the Boulevard, can’t stop crying,” Danielle sings in “Los Angeles.” Like many of these songs, it’s an ode to feeling lonely in a crowded place, whether it’s a blocked Los Angeles freeway or, even more unlikely, a band with two brothers who know him well enough to finish their prayers.

Danielle, who is Haim’s main lyricist, experienced a bout of depression after touring “Something to Tell You”, in part caused by the fact that her partner, Ariel Rechtshaid, had been diagnosed with testicular cancer. (Rechtshaid is a prolific Grammy-winning producer best known for his dizzy and shape-shifting sounds; he’s been working with Haim from time to time since “Days Are Gone”).

A therapist suggested Danielle try to break out of her funk, and that slow progress is evident in some of the new album’s most shocking songs, from the uncompromising howl of “I’ll Been Down” to the steely and determined “Now. I’m on it. ” The experience has made her a more vivid and resonant writer. “Women in Music” is textured with finely observed feelings and suggestive images (“I have to leave the engine running, in the front seat, in my mother’s winter coat”).

Danielle co-produced the album along with Rechtshaid and former Vampire Weekend instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij. Occasionally they overload the arrangements with too many sonic quirks or spoken word bridges, but most of the time their risks are rewarding. The excellent single “The Steps” contrasts roughly cut guitars with the sisters’ lucid harmonies; the slow and sumptuous “Gasoline” evokes a Sheryl Crow song on a handful of jelly beans.

However, the boldest song on the album is one of his rarest compositions: “Man From the Magazine” puts only Danielle and Alana’s acoustic guitars under some teasing comments about the misogyny of the music industry. The song takes home a wrong music store clerk who gives Danielle a “starter guitar” (dude, I just heard her excerpt on the prince nodding “____ Up But True”) and a journalist who once he asked Este (a bassist known for his exaggerated assault on stage), “Do you make the same faces in bed?” Danielle sings the chorus like a wilted and portentous growl: “I don’t want to hear ‘it is what it is’ – It was what it was. “Touché

Being a woman in music (as they put it with an implicit laugh and sigh) might not receive the sisters’ VIP treatment at the Guitar Center, or even a heavy rotation in any narrow-minded macho format that constitutes “radio rock ” in this days. Oh good. Because he’s also given his new album a new kick of antagonism, as well as the freedom to borrow from all kinds of genres that are generally considered a threat to rock’s supposed virility: pop, R&B girl group, even ghosts. from Lilith Just past. (When Haim led the Chicago Pitchfork Festival last summer, they played not one but two Paula Cole covers, with more affection than irony.)

This new ease and fluidity suits them. It’s best to believe that Haim still has chops and the encyclopedic knowledge of a rock riff bar band, but on his third album he finally learned to carry those things lightly enough to move at his own private pace.

“Women in Music Pt. III”