Time, as it must, wears on the soul. Something to Tell You, HAIM’s follow-up to their 2013 debut Days Are Gone, bears the scars of one or two failed relationships. Five years on, the Haim sisters have some regret and resignation to reconcile. The folk-rock and R&B influences from the first album remain, and are perhaps more overt than before.
Creating a pastiche can sometimes yield an impenetrable mess if not done with skill, but HAIM are saved by their evident musical knowledge and training. The first few tracks sit firmly in the pop genre, unashamedly using catchy hooks and synth effects, including a liberal dose of gated drums. The synths form not only part of the melody but also suggest context, as on ‘Want You Back’, where crying seagulls close out. Fans of Fleetwood Mac would be forgiven for mistaking ‘You Never Knew’ as an unreleased track from Tango In the Night. With the acoustic guitar picking, synth arpeggios, and more than a hint of Christine McVie, the only thing anchoring it in the present is the modern production.
‘Kept Me Crying’, rhythmically similar to ‘The Wire’ from HAIM’s first album, shows some clear ‘80s R&B influence, particularly from groups like Cameo. The music for the rest of the album becomes darker, the lyrics concerned with disappointing lovers and the realisation that salvation comes from the self. The change is so great that the final track, ‘Night So Long’ sounds comparatively spare against the opening, the rapid-fire effects stayed in favour of a leaner contemplation of love lost.
While HAIM’s classification as ‘alternative’ might bother some, the quality of this album deserves praise. Clearly rooted in pop, Something to Tell You is sophisticated enough to reward more than one listen. Clever production by Ariel Rechtshaid means it should played on decent equipment, and the careful arrangement and pleasant vocal harmonies make up for the fact that despite these merits, it is at times a predictable second release. Given the success of the first, and the continuing popularity of both Fleetwood Mac and nostalgia for the final two decades of the last century, HAIM have probably delivered their fans just what they want.
Words by Clinton Ducas
This article first appeared in print volume 88 edition 6 BLUE