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Haim “Days Are Gone”

Matthew McMahon | Monday, September 30, 2013

It’s almost inevitable that upon examining an outfit like Haim the topic of their gender becomes a discussion point.  The sisters Haim – Danielle, Este and Alana – have been surrounded by music since childhood, playing in a family band and appearing in a Nickelodeon soundtrack as members of teen girl group, the Valli Girls.  The girls are clearly familiar with the age-old story of how many young, female acts use racy subject matter to garner attention and popularity.  And while all around them current pop stars like Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry attempt to take on the liberation of an entire gender through bodily-fluid inspired perfume, redefinition of the foam fingers and extended plastic bag metaphors, it is Haim that really speaks with the smartest, most powerful voice.

With their debut studio LP “Days Are Gone,” Haim evidences the theme of strength and independence.  Take the single “The Wire,” in which Danielle breathily delivers the hook, accompanied by her sisters’ encouraging harmonies and a driving guitar riff, “It felt right, It felt right, But I fumbled it when it came down to the wire.”  The lyrics capture a self-empowering message that anyone can support, regardless of gender or musical preferences. You might not know if your decisions are correct, but dammit, they are your decisions, you’re going to make them and you’ll take responsibility for them if they do not end up being the best for you.

This message of strength is fortified by the prowess of the girls’ arrangements.  Perfectionists, demanding extra takes in the studio to get their tracks just right, these girls really know how to put together a lasting pop song.   The opening track, “Falling,” sets the tone for a vast, focused album.  With funk-inspired guitar and bass lines and rich drum fills, the song builds beautifully upon itself, culminating in a bold three-part harmony chorus both Fleetwood Mac and the women of Destiny’s Child would be proud to call their own.  As “Falling” establishes momentum, every track after it deliberates upon the pace, with slower tense moments and gushing crescendos that are equally rewarding.  The tough-as-nails “My Song 5” and its warped, deep instrumentation comes in just as the airier feel of the first half of the album starts to become familiar.

Across the album’s eleven tracks, the songs progress naturally from verse to chorus or hook, elevating and expanding in composition over the course of their average four minutes.  While most do follow a similar formula, this formula is carefully calculated and remains fresh for all blissful forty-four minutes.  Logical yet unexpected lead guitar melodies chime in, and varying organic and synthetic drum beats round out transitions.  Meanwhile, each sister provides a confident, developed voice that plays perfectly off the others.  The girls show precision in their craft, knowing exactly what sound a song needs and where it should come in.  Still, the music remains grounded in listening: easy to understand, and even easier to enjoy.

For a pop-rock group in the current era or any other, the Haim sisters showcase an already refined, classical edge in both music and image.  Their instrumental work is impressive, their sense of humanity is authentic and their purpose is relatable.  With writing, performing and co-producing credits, the Haim sisters create an essential pop release without a single sour note, proving they are the real deal: an inspirational pop and rock act seemingly unfound in modern mainstream music.