GIRL BAND DONE RIGHT
Little did most people know, prior to their meteoric rise as everyone’s favourite buzz band, early on – before they resembled the imminent comparison – the Haim sisters’ career trajectory spelled out the same pop obscurity that the Hanson brothers faced later on in their career. Confused? Simply google Valli Girls’ ‘It’s a Hair Thing’, react to it with incredulity (“A f*cking Trollz theme song?!”), have some lols, then get back to reading this review. That particular phase in their history is oft-repeated in other publications, usually as a point of comparison for how far artistically they’ve gone since singing about the different hues of Trollz dolls’ hair colours, but after digesting debut album Days Are Gone – there’s something to their awfully twee pop beginnings.
Although the name is brought up a lot, the comparisons to Fleetwood Mac aren’t that accurate – as Days Are Gone plays in its entirety, it becomes clear that Haim’s influences are pop in nature. Notably r’n’b as sometimes presented through Danielle’s sultry inflection, Este and Alana’s backing vocals, and the band’s modern r’n’b arrangements, ‘My Song 5’ in particular reaches an approximation of pop r’n’b right down to its slowed down vocals, electronic-esque production, and lyrics (“I’m not your honey pie”). Elsewhere, such as title track ‘Days Are Gone’ and ‘Go Slow’, the sisters make the sort of pop-rock amalgam that another family band, Tegan & Sara, attempted on their latest – but with much better success rate.
Perhaps Tegan & Sara’s Heartthrob went full on ‘80s-indebted pop (addendum: the ‘80s revival seems to last longer than the actual decade), so much so that it felt too calculated, disingenuous even. Haim avoids this by having genuine appreciation for pop and not sacrificing their status as a guitar band to channel a love for a genre that’s usually the opposite of who they are inherently. Despite the Phil Collins-esque ‘Running If You Call My Name’ and the Phoenix-precision of ‘Don’t Save Me’’s pop minimalism and repetition, the sisters never sound insincere – they truly come off as a band that grew up beholden to old school rock, ‘90s pop r’n’b, and girl power bands.
Through all those influences, Days Are Gone still judders with Este’s spastic bass lines, Danielle’s sometimes poppy staccato delivery is still coupled with her fantastic guitar work, and Alana’s keyboards provide vintage synth work that alternate between the clank and crash of sessionist Dash Hutton’s drums. It also helps that the band wasn’t above commissioning the help of pop auteurs Jessie Ware, James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco, and Usher and Vampire Weekend’s producer Ariel Rechtshaid.
The combination of being brought up listening to a diet of classic rock, playing with their parents’ own rock band, their own musical inclination (which includes anyone from TLC to Azealia Banks), and the help of legit producers with pop acumen make Days Are Gone a rare album that transcends the band’s own legend. The band’s past and hereditary musical talent, labels given by music journos (“nu-folk–meets–‘90s-r’n’b-pop,” says one), their cover of the unfortunately maligned Miley Cyrus single, and their unlikely unknown-to-buzz band rockstardom all come together as Days Are Gone – a debut by a guitar band whose myths and publicity billed them as a sure thing, who did prove themselves to be one.
LISTEN TO: ‘Honey & I’
IF YOU LIKE THIS YOU’LL DIG: Tegan & Sara, Fleetwood Mac
3. The Wire
4. If I Could Change Your Mind
5. Honey & I
6. Don’t Save Me
7. Days Are Gone
8. My Song 5
9. Go Slow
10. Let Me Go
11. Running If You Call My Name