Sisterly trio Haim are back with one of the most eagerly anticipated albums of 2020. It has all the California-pop weightlessness of previous releases, but this time, Danielle, Alana and Este dip their sunglasses ever so slightly on a more relatable and revealing journey. Originally slated for a release twice during April, at the third time of asking, Women in Music Pt III (affectionately known by the band as ‘WIMPIII) has finally seen the light of day.
The opener, ‘Los Angeles’ is laced with the melancholic, familiarity of their home turf and the ever-present sunshine in LA, at least meteorologically-speaking, compared with the east coast chill – “New York is cold. I tried the winter there once; nope!” ‘The Steps’, released earlier in the year to help tease the full album release, beautifully captures Haim at their harmonious best, exploring the experiences of hurt, vulnerability and ultimately resignation – “If you go left and I go right, hey maybe that’s just life sometimes”.
The Haim sisters are certainly beginning to carve out their own sound, however, their west-coast influences remain well signposted in their music with the likes of Sheryl Crow, and more than a passing resemblance to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Never Going Back Again’ on the vulnerable & fearful ‘Leaning On You’. ‘I Know Alone’ confronts drowsy delirium and heartbroken lethargy alongside repetitive, fruitless wanderings across the city – “woke up at the wheel at the edge town/sleeping through the day, but I dream the same”. The groovy ‘Up From A Dream’ has a T-Rex, glam-rock feel about it, merging the mundane practicalities of routine in contrast with the escapism of blissful, nocturnal adventures.
‘Gasoline’ and ‘3 am’ are weak and somewhat of a relapse into overtly, pop-laden anonymity. ‘Don’t Wanna’ and ‘Another Try’ are hovering over the same chasm, yet with more resolve and depth in the lyrics. Emptiness and restlessness are strong themes in ‘I’ve Been Down’ – “The love of my life sleeping by my side, and I’m still down.” One of the starkest tracks, ‘The Man From The Magazine’ is a poetic and angry rant following an uncomfortable encounter with a journalist – “it is what it is, it was what it was / you don’t know how it feels / you expect me to deal with it until I’m perfectly numb.”
Regret and making peace with painful, lost relationships come through strongly in ‘All That Ever Mattered’ and ‘FUBT’ (Fucked Up But True). Albeit, as one of three bonus tracks, the deeply grateful and loving tribute ‘Hallelujah’ (released late 2019) remains one of the best songs that Haim have ever written.
The album documents some of the momentous challenges that the family have recently faced including tour exhaustion, death and serious illness (Danielle’s partner and producer Ariel Rechtshaid battled through testicular cancer). However, their laughter and togetherness are a hallmark of their music, something that undoubtedly must have helped to see them through these difficult times.
It now feels like they are making the type of music that they want to and are truly comfortable in their own skin. As Haim begin to mature, ‘WIMPIII’ opens the door to let us see where this band is heading towards. They have retained their quirky, sun-kist vibe that blends R&B beats, folk, pop & rock, but have finally had the courage to explore the darker, more personal side of themselves. It is a real shame that we won’t be able to see these songs performed live on a balmy summer evening,