Days Are Gone
44:20 min • Polydor • September 27, 2013
John Preston reviews
Haim are in a minority of artists who also form part of the majority, where influences from chart music over the last thirty years can be heard clod hopping all over their work, but who are also pushing forward musically and sound strikingly different from their current, retro-obsessed contemporaries. The three, twenty-something sisters from LA write their own material and play their instruments; they aren’t an electronic act and neither do they aspire to be urban makeover superstars. But there are some fascinating deep and dark synths here and an R ’n’ B spirit is shadowing almost every song to the point where it does, albeit briefly, finally jump into the driving seat. Tango in The Night era Fleetwood Mac, Prince, Sheryl Crow, The Police and ’80s soft rock are the most dominant and easily spotted influences for the Haim sisters’ debut though. Time and again you’ll hear these mentioned in reference to the group but importantly, at the core of Days Are Gone, is a sound that is all theirs.
The first third of the album is home to all 4 heavily promoted singles and with the possible exception of the worryingly Shania Twain tendencies of the overly perky ‘The Wire’, all still sound spring fresh, funky and with plenty of space for instruments and vocals to stretch out and sparkle. ‘If I Could Change Your Mind’ has a fidgety, skipping melody line which brings to mind freestyle electro pop from eighties artists like Cover Girls and Lisa Lisa, and the title track, a surprising co-write with UK new-house artist Jessie Ware, has plenty of tension and bustles along with an urgent agenda and rhythm.
It’s on the futuristic R ‘n’ B of the oddly titled ‘My Song 5’ where the band really surprise. If this were the lead single from Beyonce’s near mythical, possibly forthcoming album or even more excitingly, another attempt at a comeback from Missy Elliott then either would be rightly lauded. 3 seconds of dirgy, descending buzz bass and then massive slow pounding drums introduce vocals which mimic Wendy and Lisa doing their Purple Rain residence; dead-eyed and dangerous, pitch black promising “honey I’m not your honey pie”. A dizzy and delirious middle eight where tight angelic harmonies flip forward and then just disappear and it’s one of the one of the most exciting and weird 4 minutes you’ll have experienced since the first time you heard ‘Get Ur Freak On’.
Continuing with the genuinely thrilling and experimental final third of Days Are Gone where the sound that had been established before it, is both intensified and stripped away; ‘Go Slow’ is a gorgeous and gently skulking ‘True Colours’ but with all of the sonic fuzz wiped away. ‘Let Me Go ‘ is the angriest sounding moment here, building from the ’60s girl group chants in the dark, into a tribal thud and clanking, dubby outdo and ‘Running If You Call’ closes the album in a traditional way with a downtempo mass of drums, guitars and those beautiful harmonies.
Days Are Gone is maybe more than anything else so welcome at this point in pop culture. Pop music is more female driven and dominated then ever before; Gaga is eaten by Lana is eaten by Taylor is eaten by Miley. It happens so quickly and all have their place and merit but none sound like Haim. Image, although clearly very much considered, seems less of an issue to the group than the music itself. You can listen to the songs here and you don’t necessarily feel hijacked by a carefully constructed persona and brand as you may do when listening to, say, ‘Born This Way’ or ‘Video Games’. This is a charismatic and superior release, real musical talent and love of performing that doesn’t sound cynical or short-sighted. Probably most satisfying of all, you can almost guarantee that this really is only the beginning for Haim and the best is still to come.