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Monday, December 9, 2013

Albums of the Year - #11: HAIM - "Days Are Gone"

Rating: 8.0/10

HAIM have had quite the year. After generating buzz last year with their three-song EP Forever, this band of sisters took 2013 with the hook-laced Days Are Gone. Melodious harmonies, plucky guitar riffs, and skittish drum beats characterized the indie-pop record that landed on numerous year-end lists. Several fesitval shows and an SNL appearance later, HAIM have been labeled by many as the best new artist of 2013. (Though they missed out on a Best New Artist nod at the upcoming GRAMMY Awards thanks to a confusing nomination process.)

Over the two months between my original review of the record and this one, my love for Days Are Gone has only strengthened, thus the jump up from a 7.1 rating to a flat eight. Songs like "Forever" and "The Wire" are undeniable pieces of pop-rock gold. On "Forver," the start-stop coordination between the bass and drums give the song a nervous feel as main vocalist Danielle is joined by sisters Este and Alana for the chorus.  "The Wire" rides on the backbone of a riff that could've been plucked straight from Rumours, incorporating keys and thundering drums for the hook. "Always keep your heart locked tight/don't let your mind retire," urges Danielle. A miniture guitar solo takes prominence right at the track's conclusion.

"If I Could Change Your Mind" also showcases the group's songwriting abilities. Eighties-esque synths and vocals create a pleading, regretful tune. "Back when you were mine/I was too young to know you were the one to find" is certainly a poignant, blunt lyric. And this comes within the first four lines of the song. Other songs are less organic and more electronic, including the decidedly hip-hop style "My Song 5," which also utilizes a monster riff and a pitch shifter. It's certainly the most unique and unexpected track on Days Are Gone, but enjoyable nonetheless.

For me, the crowning moment on the album is still the shimmering "Don't Save Me." This is the song that made me first realize HAIM were the real deal. No one who writes as brilliant a song as this one can hope to avoid the spotlight, so long as they're the one performing it. "If I had to beg for your love/tell me/would it ever be enough?" asks Danielle as she figures out whether she really wants to be with who she's chasing, before deciding "don't save me now." The aforementioned '80's synths make a triumphant return and really define the track.

As Lorde took the commercial world by storm, HAIM were dominating the critic circles. Earning top ten year-end spots from both Stereogum (8) and SPIN (4), clearly the record was well-received. The most popular band of siblings since The Jonas Brothers and the best one since Jackson 5, HAIM are sure to continue to put out great record after great record if Days Are Gone is any indication.

Key tracks: "Falling," "Forever," "The Wire," "Don't Save Me"

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