Music Reviews

The Power of Three, the Charmed Ones, the HAIM Sisters


Genre: Indie Pop

Favorite Tracks: “3 AM,” “Another Try,” “Man From the Magazine,” “FUBT”

Apparently good things come in threes. Whether it be their three albums with varying degrees of predilection, their three different but equally interesting personalities, or simply their fact of being three women making music, HAIM have rightfully skyrocketed to a new level. Their fans remained curious and avid with the launch of their third record’s first single “Summer Girl” a year ago, and from there released a series of tracks with visuals all directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, solidifying the type of collaboration fans may have dreamed of but never would have imagined to be a real possibility. Amidst the confidence, vulnerability, and fun of tracks like “Now I’m In It” and “Hallelujah,” the women of HAIM seemed to be walking a new path leading up to their latest record WOMEN IN MUSIC PT. III. In the weeks since the album’s release, that notion has been not only affirmed, but feels like the rain outside of Shawshank.

I specifically remember driving home at 2 A.M. my senior year of high school hearing “Running If You Call My Name” for the first time and being completely awestruck. I wasn’t the girl they articulated, but god did I want to be. Everything I felt about a love that I hadn’t experienced yet was highlighted against a backdrop of gorgeous harmonies and strong percussion. “The Wire” was HAIM’s biggest hit at the time, but I knew, even at 17, their music warranted a close deep-dive. DAYS ARE GONE had a formative impact on my transition into the girl I knew I always was, so needless to say I love that album and HAIM very dearly.

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My aforementioned relationship with the band now expanded on, I’d of course be remiss to not touch on SOMETHING TO TELL YOU. DAYS ARE GONE, and more specifically HAIM as an entity, have such a powerful presence. Their social media accounts are virile with personality and all of their interviews teem with a unique but palpable relatability. In short, they’re one of the most magnetic forces in pop music in recent memory. The revelatory nature of DAYS ARE GONE coupled with their noteworthy personhood propelled them, but it also bit them hard in the ass on SOMETHING TO TELL YOU. With each new album comes a different phase in an artist’s life and as such, an artist’s fans are expecting their art to evolve in correlation with the life they have lived. SOMETHING TO TELL YOU is the exception to that rule. The album felt unfortunately one-note—the production either sounded so similar to DAYS ARE GONE that there was little to highlight, and the lyrics were fine but presented nothing new or transparent, ultimately feeling blaise. Try as one might to cling to the idea that it came from a stream of consciousness, SOMETHING TO TELL YOU bordered on monotony. Three women who were completely themselves made a record we had heard before that felt devoid of all the individuality they showcased so effortlessly.

Understandably after SOMETHING TO TELL YOU, HAIM took a rough hit and many of their supporters fell off or became skeptical of what was to come. Thankfully because of their Paul Thomas Anderson and Vampire Weekend collaborations, Rodarte photoshoots, and a number of titillating marketing strategies, the sisters were able to remain visible and induce compelling curiosity. Finally, after their sophomore slump, they sound once again exciting. It’s almost an understatement that WOMEN IN MUSIC PT. III feels fresh or new. All of the pitfalls of SOMETHING TO TELL YOU have been banished and the group has learned to relish in experimentation—“3 AM” is a lost Spice Girls track, “Man from the Magazine” is a Joni Mitchell homage, and there’s even some Robyn that comes through on “All That Ever Mattered.”

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Every track on WOMEN IN MUSIC PT. III sounds unique and different, not just in influence, but in production, embracing synths, vocal distortion, and electronic beats. However, they don’t stray from their propulsive roots of percussion and driving bass. This time around, though, their approach is more calculated in their employment of a familiar formula. Even the lyricism on WOMEN IN MUSIC PT. III has the tenacity and charisma of DAYS ARE GONE, but this time feels painfully honest and finally fosters a heartfelt accessibility. “FUBT” tells a story of floating in the ether of a toxic relationship, the lines “I spend my mornings overthinkin’ all my old mistakes / But I would never judge your problems in the same way / You beat yourself up and I let you take it out on me / Another day, another hour / No apology”retelling a tragically familiar narrative so many of us outwardly confront in the modern age. The HAIM sisters are not perfect; despite the shiny veneer their social media may give off, they make mistakes and sometimes fail to act within reason. It’s a welcome reminder that stars hate themselves just like normal people. HAIM hangs onto any speck of normalcy and stability because life sucks and this cruel bitch of a world doesn’t fail to hesitate to mock us for our every decision.

On WOMEN IN MUSIC PT. III, HAIM have done something magical in the utterly bleak year that is 2020: they have elicited growth. In a country that can’t move on from its own individualistic selfishness on a planet that won’t recognize or repair its abject imperialism and white supremacy, it is comforting to know that at least something, although tragically minute, is changing for the better. WOMEN IN MUSIC PT. III solidifies HAIM’s personas not as the girls you want to be, but the girls you always have been. They make mistakes, they navigate the impending bullshit, and most importantly they articulate that growth means getting through, not growing up.

Jesse Herb
Jesse Herb acts as a contributor for Merry-Go-Round to finally show she deserves a Thrasher hoodie. She needs to brush her teeth, gags at the phrase “old soul,” and has made it her life’s work to watch all of Elliot Page’s filmography.

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