It might feel like it’s been a long time coming but Haim’s debut album ‘Days Are Gone’ is nearly here. Following a run of singles that’s positioned them as one of the most exciting new bands around, they hit the studio with pop super producer Ariel Rechtshaid (Usher, Charli XCX) to create their debut opus. Here’s our first impressions, track by track.
Previously a single intended to tide fans over until ‘Days Are Gone’ was completed, here ‘Falling’ takes its place as one of three already familiar openers. Ushering in the album with drums that sound like distant, muted cannon fire, it tees up the rest of the record well with R&B flecked vocals, Este’s funk-loaded basslines and a preoccupation with matters of the heart.
Delving even further into Haim’s small back catalogue, next comes one of the three tracks that formed their debut EP and got the world all excited about the sisters in the first place. What was a silky smooth introduction to the band has now become a sleek fan favourite via its glossed-up Fleetwood Mac strut. It’s so full of gleeful riffs that the fact Danielle’s singing about a relationship hurtling towards disintegration almost completely passes you by.
Taking this cut from their live show, where it inhabits a drivetime rock mould, the girls have used their studio time to twist this into something distinctly more pop-focussed. For starters, there’s the ever-present handclaps that make it destined to prompt bouts of crowd participation at gigs. Then there’s the chorus, undeniably mighty and infectious, the sampled orchestra, wailing guitar solos and acrobatic backing vocals, all topped off by one final auto-tuned ‘yeah’. Also notable for being the first track on the album that pushes Este and Alana to the lead, with them handling a verse each.
If I Could Change Your Mind
Now they’re not even trying to mask the sombre nature of this one. It’s obvious we’re in for something a bit more teary-eyed straight from the first downbeat, glistening chords and Danielle only reinforces that as she angelically sighs “No, please don’t cry/I’ve never done this before, drove a million miles.” It’s another example of them shedding their ‘70s pop-rock skin and going purely pop, here recalling the ‘90s and that era’s honeyed girl group ballads. Then, towards the end, comes the breakdown, shaking off that sheen for a second and getting back to their roots.
Honey & I
Shuffling, brushed drums and soft guitar strums open this next track, another regular fixture in the band’s live show. Featuring Danielle surveying an ex-lover and asserting in a stuttered chorus “my honey and I are doing just fine”, it’s one of the more understated moments on the record, leaving it right until the final stretch to ramp things up slightly. Though there’s some hollers and a bit more urgency as it does so, things soon calm down again and slide away as the track fades out.
Don’t Save Me
Already a staple of the indie disco, ‘Don’t Save Me’ finds the trio back in girl group territory and serving up a buffed up dancefloor filler. “Baby, don’t save me,” instructs Danielle over crashing beats and trickling guitars but really the song belongs to Este’s bass groove, lighting up every corner of the song and forming a shining centrepiece for the record.
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Days Are Gone
Continuing the mega pop theme, the album’s title track also features some subtle piano house stabs. While the sisters aren’t going full on rave just yet, it’s an interesting addition to their sound that helps ‘Days Are Gone’ form the most club-ready track on the LP. Later, monastic echoes briefly reverberate underneath and the girls show off their best hushed falsettos.
My Song 5
The most inventive and playful song on the album, ‘My Song 5’ could easily be the soundtrack to a horror movie where the Haim girls exact revenge on the men who’ve done them wrong. With a parping, baritone bassline that sounds like the rumblings of an angry bullfrog, there’s a neat contrast here between ugly, heavy-handed sounds and the band’s pretty vocals. Midway through there’s a shift in pace that sounds like Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij covering The Jackson 5 with his Discovery side project; all extreme falsetto and glitchy, electro-pop tinges. It’s only a momentary break though as things soon return to the deeper, dirtier sound of before.
Another of the songs that appeared on that first release, ‘Go Slow’ begins to wind up the album, luring it into a gentler, softer frame of mind. Repetitive whispers of ‘the heat’ wash over the same cannon beats as ‘Forever’ and smooth guitar licks cushion the blow.
Let Me Go
With just a distant drone accompanying Danielle’s opening vocals, there’s an air of mystery to the record’s penultimate track that builds as percussion nudges in and her sisters join her in pleading “let me go/you know I’m not one for leaving”. Then a futuristic swirl sounds, introducing a harder next phase of thumping drums and even more emotion poured into the girls pleas.
Running When You Call My Name
Despite its title suggesting the album’s final track is going to be some soppy declaration of love and committment, instead it finds Danielle promising to “run away if you call my name/I’ll keep running if you come my way.” It’s a misty, sombre closer that, whilst not quite representative of some of the brighter moments on the record feels a fitting way to tie things up.