Review of Haim – Days Gone By; The Elektrospank

2013-11-06 01.04.18 pm

Recently contributed a review to a friend’s new blog collective, for which they kindly, if not questionably, asked a profile of me.

It can be found here, or read the bare copy below:
The title of Days Are Gone refers to its drawn-out recording, and it does seem like forever ago since ‘Forever’ appeared, and drew out those first hyperbolic claims early last year that AT LAST we’d found the missing link between Fleetwood Mac and Destiny’s Child. But as the Californian trio slowly dripped out singles (‘Falling’ and ‘Don’t Save Me’) and bantered through decreasingly urgent interviews, even eldest sister Este’s notorious ‘bass-face’ couldn’t hide the fact that Haim as a proposition seemed less Beyoncé, more b-oring.

So it’s a revelation – at least to this reviewer – listening to even the first ten minutes of Days Are Gone, which picks up from almost two years of what felt like a relatively un-prolific emergence for the L.A. sisters, and smacks you in the face with a hat-trick of previous singles. Perhaps it was their Cali blasé that distracted from the fact, but goddamn do Haim pack some tunes.

As the rollicking, chorus-heavy ‘Falling’ and ‘Forever’ give way to July single ‘The Wire’, we’re granted access into Haim’s shiny new Hollywood Boulevard crib. And what guests! Production duties are shared between Simian Mobile Disco’s James Ford and Ariel Rechtshaid (Usher, Solange, Sky Ferreira), whose touch is most distinct on this third track’s sprightly electro-pop – the digital breathlessness applied to lead singer Danielle’s chesty rumble directly recalling the same producer’s treatment of Ezra Koenig’s vocal on Vampire Weekend’s ‘Diane Young’ from this year’sModern Vampires Of The City (“Baby, baby, baby, baby right on time”).

As if that wasn’t enough Brit indie stardom, Jessie Ware and her own co-writer Kid Harpoon step in to contribute credits to the album’s title track, which also marks the first of two standout tracks at its girthy midpoint that distinctly opt for the studio-as-instrument approach: a skipping hi-hat groove and Nile Rogers-grade guitar details momentarily raise Danielle to pop diva, borne aloft on a bed of richly-produced yet airy pop-funk. In fact, not unlike ’110%’ on Ware’s own debut, which gleamed from amongst more traditional neo-soul with the crossover kudos of her dance music background (thanks to collaborator Julio Bashmore), ‘My Song 5′ marks the only point on Days Are Gone where Haim’s much-hyped R&B credentials really seep through. And as with ’110%’ for Ware, it shows Haim at their most unique – Danielle dropping her otherwise staccato flutter to a sexy contralto, joined by a set of hip hop claps and sub-bass that could have been produced by Jamie xx.

It’s golden moments like these that prove the album’s gestation time, and obviously pain-staking detail, well worth it. There’s little to criticise of Haim’s masterfully radio-lite yet incredibly layered fusion approach, their soft- and pop- rock palette full of deft turns that deserve repeated comparisons to Fleetwood Mac – such as the glorious two-part guitar riff during the breakdown of ‘Let Me Go’, or the turn of mood into the chorus of ‘If I Could Change Your Mind’. If anything, it’s all a little too perfect – could it hurt for Este to consummate that bass-face with more Jamie xx sub, or for Danielle to really ‘do Aaliyah’? Actually, yes. Probably yes. Leave the Haim sisters to do the over-cooking and let this masterstroke stand, even if both legs seem more rooted in soft-rock than R&B. Good thing they have six legs between them, and hopefully many more albums to come

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