Alana, Este and Danielle Haim have always been a sensational trio of musicians, but on their third and best studio album, the sisters evolve their sound and songwriting while navigating a potential minefield of genres to wondrous effect. Days Are Gone introduced us to the band’s infectiously catchy brand of guitar pop/rock back in 2013 before Something To Tell You honed in on the girls’ melodic gifts (perhaps a tad too safely), but in the three years that have passed since it’s clear that Haim are aspiring to something greater than their previous work.
As one of the most anticipated albums of the summer, WIMPIII‘s rollout of singles set expectations high with a deliberately varied trio of standalone singles on ‘Now I’m In It’, ‘Hallelujah’ and most compellingly, Danielle’s touching pledge to partner Ariel Rechtshaid after his cancer diagnosis on the poignant, jazz soaked ‘Summer Girl’.
So well received as they were, it was a surprise to find each of these tracks listed as bonuses rather than making the official album when the tracklist came out, but on reflection it’s a wonderful flex and showcase of Women in Music‘s level of depth to be able to drop singles of this quality and not include them on the final product.
If anything the singles act as a fitting introduction to WIMPIII, previewing the range and songcraft of the preceding 41 minutes and 11 tracks. Enlisting band friend and one of the greatest indie producers currently on the scene in Vampire Weekend vet Rostam Batmanglij alongside Grammy winner Rechtshaid, the sisters traverse an exponential amount of sounds with such skill and poise throughout the tracklisting that you’ll barely notice them weaving such seemingly incompatible genres together as jazz (‘los Angeles’), country rock (‘The Steps’), electropop (‘I Know Alone’), 90s hip-hop and R&B (‘3am’), reggae (‘Another Try’) and folk (‘Leaning on You’) all the while never losing sight of their signature musicality for a second.
It’s not just the band’s sound that has prospered though – Haim are as open and intimate here as they’ve ever been. Each of the sisters has befallen personal problems of varying degrees since their last record and it shows in the wiser, more honest songwriting found on tracks like the aforementioned ‘Summer Girl’, the joyously bitter yet bright ‘The Steps’ and particularly ‘Man from the Magazine’, a short diss aimed at journalists who the band have perceived as misogynist towards them over the last few years.
Chief songwriter Danielle deserves major credit in particular for not only developing her writing but also her presence as a frontwoman, as the middle sister displays more personality and swagger on these 11 songs than the band’s entire previous catalogue, brushing off the frustrations and doubts that populate these tracks with such self-assurance and arrogance as we have never witnessed in her before.
It’s symptomatic of the band as a whole, who take sonic risks on WIMPIII that you’d be hard pressed to hear from the majority bands in Haim’s field (just listen to those hair raising screams in the backdrop of ‘All That Ever Mattered’ and simple yet pleasurable anomalies like the jarring ”NOPE” 90 seconds into opener ‘Los Angeles’).
If all of that sounds like a lot of ground to cover inside 40 minutes, it’s a testament to Haim that they have pulled of a record of such ambition and abandon while packaging and delivering it with the kind of effortlessly accessible and undeniably addictive pop aesthetic the trio are renowned for. Put simply, Women in Music is a fantastic collection of tunes – but more than that it’s a genre hopping, ingeniously executed leap into the unknown and the biggest artistic statement of its creators’ young careers.
Words – Andrew Lambert
Best Tracks: ‘Los Angeles’/’The Steps’/’Don’t Wanna’/’Summer Girl’
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