HAIM makes some of the most ambitious music I’ve ever heard in my life, and I don’t mean that in the sense of musical experimentation or difficulty.
Their music carries a certain urgency, power, and sheer drama that can’t be found anywhere else. HAIM makes action music, here and now music, right fucking now music. It’s hard to accurately pinpoint this X factor that I’m getting at, but it ironically enough can best be described by capital letters. The HAIM sisters make music in all caps.
If you’re more of a casual music listener, HAIM is a band that you might’ve noticed popping up on your internet presence more and moreover the past few years. If you’re a more serious listener, you’ve probably gradually watched your friends discover them and become massive fans, one by one. And if you’re already a full scale HAIM follower, you definitely have a favorite sister, have watched their “Valentine” performance over ten times, and are prone to hitting the “CAUSE I GOT SOMETHING TO TELL YOU,” falsetto at a given second. You’ve probably also dealt with the jarring truth that it’s pronounced “High-em” and not “Haym.” All are great places to be.
HAIM has only three albums to their name, and all are excellent, but to get started, your best bet is to watch some live performances and music videos. They have some particularly excellent visuals with film genius Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood, Phantom Thread, Inherent Vice) who deserves his own guide that could fill a library. The LA natives have a handful of great music videos, many of which are done by PTA, along with a stellar Tiny Desk Concert and a live concert from the famous Canter’s Deli. Their most compelling and immersive performance is called “Valentine,” filmed by PTA at Valentine recording studios in North Hollywood. It’s a fifteen minute, documentary-style performance that gives the audience an intimate fly on the wall feeling, rendering true lightning in a bottle. I could go on and on about this video, but you have to just watch it. It’s truly breathtaking.
If you aren’t all in on the HAIM sisters after watching “Valentine,” you watched it wrong. But assuming your eyes and ears work, the best approach to the discography is to go in chronological order. Their catalog develops very organically. Their debut album Days Are Gone is an extremely striking one. It surely does not sound like the work of newcomers. Each song is dynamic, electric, and dramatic, leaving plenty of room for indulgence and experimentation. It’s not as thematically cohesive as it’s follow up Something to Tell You, but more of a showcase to the sheer talent of the sisters. More importantly, its versatility is years ahead of its time, planting the seeds for the stadium alternative that would later be realized by bands like The 1975, the painfully intimate folk that would be found by the artists like Phoebe Bridgers, and the newly cool hipster-country that would be dominated by Kacy Musgraves. Simply put, Days Are Gone’s heart-racing 40 minutes play as the shape of music to come, as well as the genesis of one of the most enamoring bands of the decade.
With Something to Tell You, HAIM perfects that pressing, larger than life, unrelenting X factor that I was detailing earlier. Their sophomore effort brings fuller sounds, more epic scenes, and heavier narratives. This is also where the band truly refines their impeccable sense of rhythm and harmony, honing in their talent to sound more connected and cohesive than ever. The pockets that the group is able to find and marinate in here are so incredibly poignant and engaging; this album is chock-full of earworms. All the stars fully align with Something to Tell You, as they soar over the sophomore slump and simply improve on every aspect of their music. If Days Are Gone is HAIM bursting into the music industry with full force, Something To Tell You is them fully transcending it. Along with the three songs performed in “Valentine,” the highlights here include “Little of Your Love” and “Night So Long”
Your journey will conclude (for now) with HAIM’s latest album, one of the only good things about 2020, and possibly the best album of the year, period: Women In Music Part III. Opting for much bolder experimentation and genre crossing, this album is HAIM proving that they can do literally whatever the hell they want and do it flawlessly. This is easily HAIM’s greatest accomplishment and most enjoyable album; the eclecticism and serendipity are just too damn fun. The band somehow manages to tackle reggae jams, house grooves, Joni Mitchell ballads, and full on Dixie Chicks country bangers, all in the same project, all excellently. HAIM wears their influences on their sleeve and simultaneously proceeds to exceed them in every conceivable way. There are surprises at every turn, and it’s a genuine blast to rediscover them with every listen. The whole project is outstanding, but to pick a few highlights I recommend “Los Angeles,” “The Steps,” “Gasoline,” and “Another Try“.
HAIM is a few years from being a household name, and a few decades from being in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. The way they craft scenes, moods, and visions are uncanny, and years ahead of their contemporaries. HAIM is better felt than described in the text, but the best I can do here is refer to the one word that I feel fully encapsulates the band: Pure. HAIM is as pure as any musical artist has ever been. I can’t wait to see where they go.