Review Summary: The only problem with Haim right now is nothing to do with right now – when you’ve attained the perfection of Days Are Gone right off the bat, where DO you go next? Hey, don’t worry about tomorrow when you can listen to Days Are Gone today…
Let's get something out of the way up front. Simply "reviewing" an album by pigeonholing it to another artist or another album is bullshit. This lazy criticism primarily conveys itself as the offender vomiting their "music knowledge" all over the page. Furthermore, it serves only to propagate the notion that a music critic nowadays is merely a buyer's reference guide - "BUY THIS IF YOU LIKE [THIS]!" WHEW! //end rant. I only raise this point because Haim's debut Days Are Gone has often been unfairly dogged by this very tactic, even in its positive reviews. The popular notions are that Days Are Gone is a Fleetwood Mac body double or that it exclusively panders to Cyndi Lauper-variety '80s music aficianados. In fact, one could argue the persistent comparisonism (new word!) levied at Days Are Gone is KINDA sexist - yeah, it's reminiscint of a variety female pop/rock artists because the band consists of three chicks, we get it.
SO, let's get something else out of the way - they are KINDA right. Haim certainly touches on a number of artists of yore, some obvious and some rather surprising. For those who are satisfied to simply evaluate on this fact, here is an including-but-not-limited-to list of Days Are Gone's musical touchstones: The Go-Gos, Heart, Prince's pop eclecticism and multi-instrumentality, Sade, The Black Keys, Christine McVie-fronted Fleetwood Mac, Shania Twain ("Man I Feel Like a Woman"), Rod Stewart ("The Motown Song"), mid-era solo Paul Simon, Destiny's Child, and the atmospheric drama of Canadian indie rock. If you'd like to slap these contents together into a Spotify playlist and pretend you know what Haim sounds like, by all means, have at it; if you'd like to hear specifically why Haim's album is prospectively an essential part of your music collection, READ ON!
Haim are three sisters from L.A. in their 20s; they look like they were nicked from an Urban Outfitters catalog; they're backed by one of those wicked major labels; all their songs conveniently run between the 3:30 and 4:30 mark; virtually every one of these songs tells of a relationship gone awry - cue the indie skepticism and cynicism. It all smells a bit gimmicky, I will admit, but bollocks that - Days Are Gone is quite likely the best wax residing in these ears all year. Haim takes the well-worn theme of twentysomething relations and continually reimagines and reconfigures it with each passing song, inconceivably keeping a weary topic fresh. The girl featured in lead single "Forever" living under her soured relationship's thumb, but too afraid to cut cord herself, gives way to her antithesis in "The Wire," the girl who didn't know how rosy she had it until she "fumbled it when it came down to the wire." "My Honey & I" unearths the realization that "love wasn't what I once thought it was" - that a girl in her 20s needn't talk wedding rings and forever and fall over herself finding Mr. Right to stick with him "just because."
Haim also displays a smidge of cheekiness juxtaposing song titles with their actual contents. "Go Slow" creeps out the stereo speakers all dripping with orgy candle wax and massage oils - as bassist Este has put it, it's their "slow jam" - until the declaration that its protagonist has been burned by "the heat" of a failed relationship, ruining her "young life," and now "hate[s] who [she's] become." "Running If You Call My Name" turns the traditional meme of running into your lovers arms on its head as we find the narrator resigning herself to calling it quits and that she intends to "keep running" and "run away" if he "calls [her] name" or "comes [her] way."
Just as the ladies constantly shift their tone and point of view to keep the subject matter from going stale, the musical accompaniment follows suit accordingly. The late-80s soul/R&B chug of "If I Could Change Your Mind" proves the ideal vehicle for its lyrical desperation. "My Honey & I"s calypso shuffle is the perfect playpen for the album's only primarily sunny-dispositioned track. The percussive garage stomps of "My Song 5" and "Let Me Go" drive home the bile within the album's angriest tunes. "Running If You Call My Name"s lump-in-the-throat drama is accentuated by its claustrophobic reverb of the background vocals and thundering toms. Haim's uncanny knack for pop songcraft - much belying their relative inexperience - and the slick, but rich production are the keys to threading all of the seemingly disparate elements into a seamless and cohesive whole.
The folks over at The Quietus may be right - "There's something suspiciously perfect about Haim." Every track on Days Are Gone could be a hit; any one of them could be your favorite song; any of the three ladies could be your crush. The only problem with Haim right now is nothing to do with right now - when you've attained the perfection of Days Are Gone right off the bat, where DO you go next? Hey, don't worry about tomorrow when you can listen to Days Are Gone today...