Haim (photo by Reto Schmid, PR)
Women In Music Pt. III
Este, Danielle and Alana Haim were destined to make music—the three L.A. sisters began playing instruments at a very young age and ended up in a band fronted by their parents, called Rockinhaim. Este and Danielle went on to be in Valli Girls for a spell (you'll find them on "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" soundtrack among other things), but when Alana joined in 2007, the alchemy of Haim began formulating. Danielle's busy side gigs as a touring musician with folks like Jenny Lewis and CeeLo Green sometimes made that start a slow one, but with the release of the band's 2012 EP Forever, it was clear that the siblings had something very special on their hands.
Haim’s third album, Women in Music Pt. III, reveals a significant step forward in the artistic evolution of the band from 2013's Days Are Gone and 2017's Something to Tell You. There's an impressive richness to the new songs that makes the most of Haim's vivid character and adaptability as a band.
That fresh direction is apparent on the sax-sweetened street funk of “Los Angeles,” the album’s first track. Over a light reggae beat, Haim struts through their hometown, but with a sense of big city blues: “Hometown of mine/Just got back from the boulevard, can’t stop cryin’.”
Lyrically, Women in Music Pt. III often touches on depression, like the dark “I Know Alone,” and “I’ve Been Down.” The album is an intensely personal one for all three sisters, who've talked about their own struggles — from Alana's grief over a close friend's death, to Este's type 1 diabetes, which threatened her ability to tour. Haim's longtime producer Ariel Rechtshaid, who is Danielle's partner, was diagnosed with testicular cancer; her incisive writing on "I've Been Down" details the despair she felt: "The love of my life/Sleepin' by my side/But I'm still down."
There is a lot of light in this darkness, though, and some scathing humor on WIMPIII too (and why this album fits perfectly with these rollercoaster pandemic days). The sisters drop perfect pop hooks and feel-good vibes on the jubilant, raucous rocker “The Steps” and “Gasoline.” The scratch of a turntable, spoken word samples, and quirky synth flourishes flow through the retro-Nineties R&B swagger of “3AM." There's some seriously dexterous guitar and warm harmonies on “Leaning On You,” which leans on a Lindsey Buckinham influence, and a smooth groove propels "Don't Wanna." Via the lo-fi folk of “Man from the Magazine,” Haim punches back at the misogyny they’ve encountered through the years, skewering everyone from male journalists to guitar shop clerks.
A bonus at album’s end are the three songs Haim released as singles last year: “Summer Girl” (one of my personal favorite songs of 2019), “Now I’m In It,” and the exquisite acoustic ballad “Hallelujah.”
All 16 tracks were cowritten by the three sisters; Danielle co-produced the album with Rechtshaid, and Rostam Batmanglij, formerly of Vampire Weekend. On WIMPIII, Danielle also plays guitar, drums, percussion and a some synthesizer. Este is the rhythmic rock on bass and vocals. Alana plays guitar and contributes vocals, while also adding some keyboards, percussion and even a little bass. Batmanglij and Rechtshaid also contribute guitar, keyboards, accordion, mandolin, harmonium, Orchestron, percussion, bass and much more. Special guests Cass McCombs and Tobias Jesso Jr. add a bit of guitar too.
WIMPIII is not only Haim's best release to date, but a celebration of their ingenuity and versatility. This is an album without genre or boundaries, zipping between rock, power ballads, sweet pop, rhythm and blues, and hip hop. It's candid, carefree and a triumph.