Reviewed by Ghazal Bhootra, BBA C, Batch of 2024, Kirit P. Mehta School of Law
Quite underrated for the first female rock band ever to be nominated for the Grammy’s album of the year, Haim’s new album might be their best one yet. Brave and bold, yet delivered with such calmness, the Haim sisters have delved deep into their LA upbringing which explains the way the songs incorporate sounds like blazing horns, ocean waves, alarms, dining in delis and voicemails at 3 am. They have gone above and beyond in their sonic experiments with saxophones and congas in addition to their usual style, and it paid off.
The dark path taken in their third album comes from all three sisters facing depression, with lead singer and guitarist Danielle’s boyfriend (Ariel Rechtshaid, producer on the album) having been diagnosed with testicular cancer and Danielle being diagnosed with depression due to the same. Keyboardist Alana Haim’s best friend was killed in a car accident. Bassist Este Haim, struggling with her type 1 diabetes, was also prescribed antidepressants. The trio decided to write about those experiences candidly while calling out the misogyny of the music industry. The album still has a light at the end of the tunnel and feels hopeful, reminding us that it gets better. A tongue in cheek title, Women in Music Pt. III, that appeared to Danielle Haim in a dream, befits this beautiful album which references dreams quite a few times.
The album starts with “Los Angeles”, a song about the love-hate relationship with one’s city. It is ablaze with horns, deli sounds and saxophones giving the happy vibe of the city but the lyrics seem to despair over feeling displaced while not being appeased by any other place in the world. “The Steps”, their guitar-driven lead single, is an angst-y anthem with great drumming, echoing the sentiment felt by a lot of women in the lines “And every day I wake up and I make money for myself/ And though we share a bed, you know that I don’t need your help/ Do you understand?/ You don’t understand me, baby”.
“Man from the Magazine”, nodding to the style of Joni Mitchell, very directly addresses the misogyny in the music industry, where the sisters sing about sexist questions from male journalists and patronising stances of men in instrument shops. The artists have also called for more female engineers and producers in the industry in the past which feels correct because Danielle does a splendid job in the production of this album.
Songs “I Know Alone”, “Up from a Dream” and “I’ve Been Down” perfectly encapsulate the sentiments that everyone went through in the lockdown, even though the songs were written before. Call it clairvoyance, but the lyrics “Sleeping through the day and I dream the same”, “Days get slow/ Like counting cell towers on the road”, “I’m waking up at night, tick-tock, killing time” and “Trying to get myself through this/ And I’ve been watching too much TV” almost felt like thoughts that went through one’s head while doom-scrolling at home was being put into words.
“Gasoline” and “3 AM” and accompanying versions featuring Taylor Swift and Thundercat, were probably the famous ones on the album, and for good reason. The two songs are unabashed in their approach towards wrecked sexual relationships, a relief from the usually hidden references in songs by female artists. “3 AM”, a funk song, is also a great experiment musically, with a voice mail written into the whole song instead of just at the start or end.
“Now I’m in It”, “All That Ever Mattered” and “FUBT” are probably my top three songs on the album. “Now I’m in It” is a crying-in-the-club number, with its high tempo while the lyrics are actually about a downward spiral. The lyricist, Danielle drags the listener into her fogged up brain and talks about what it’s like to blame yourself and not be on good terms with your decisions. “All that Ever Mattered” is a chaotic number with its distorted screams that felt therapeutic to the listener as well as the band. “FUBT” is the antithesis of tempo-heavy “The Steps”, with the same guitar-driven style but grimmer and where the lyrics are more vulnerable than ever. The guitar solo at the end is one of the best I’ve ever heard from the band and therefore, my favourite moment on the album.
“Don’t Wanna”, “Another Try”, “Leaning on You” and “Hallelujah” offer much-needed respite along with the rather gloomy songs on the rest of the album. “Don’t Wanna” and “Another Try” seem like sister songs that talk about not wanting to give up on a relationship and trying one last time to make it work. The latter of the songs has one of the best Haim bridges, with the conga drums coupled with trumpets that leave you wanting more. “Leaning on you” and “Hallelujah” delves into the relationship between the three sisters. Alana describes it as songs that offer hugs from the other two sisters when one feels down or goes through a crisis, which all three of them brought to the studio while making the album.
“Summer Girl” is the perfect bookend to the album, tying the shoestring back to loving the city of “Los Angeles” and the robust saxophones from the first song. It talks about being relief to a person in distress. The song feels like the sunshine of summer and positive energy, perfectly suiting the title.
All in all, the album has the signature Haim-ness, but pushed up a notch. The album feels like they’re singing right next to you and therefore, the most relatable in their three records. “Women in music”, the Haim sisters full of their flaws but accepting it in this album, never lose the momentum and hope while navigating new and sombre territories. While desperately waiting to see what the LA girls come up with next, this record is definitely going to be spinning on repeat for me.