‘A record which blends different styles while never losing its sense of self’
Women in Music Pt. III opens with a need for change. “Los Angeles/Give me a miracle, I just want out from this,” sing sisters Este, Danielle, and Alana over soft-rock guitar strings that evoke sepia tramcars meandering past lazy summer beaches. The song is melancholy, no doubt about it, and yet it’s curiously upbeat. HAIM no longer seem to feel quite at home in the city that they call home, but rather than outright lamenting these confusing emotions, they embrace them, and speed with them down Crescent Heights to see what lies waiting on the other side.
HAIM should be commended for making a record which manages to push itself and blend different styles and trappings while never losing its cohesiveness or sense of self. Like an RV venturing cross-country and picking up a little something from each state along the way, Women in Music Pt. III moves from genre to genre so elegantly that you forget it’s moving at all.
‘The Steps’ and ‘Up From A Dream’ continue with the pure rock overtones, which becomes lo-fi indie-rock on ‘Gasoline’ that then blossoms into 90s-esque R&B on ‘3am’. The rest of the album continues its exploration of different sounds with remarkable ambition – there is reggae, electronica, metal rock, garage, and more, all these songs accompanied by earnestly melancholic lyrics which are delivered by great vocal performances. Of particular note are some tracks like the aforementioned ‘3am’, the unapologetically country ‘Leaning On You’, and ‘Man From the Magazine’, which critiques misogynistic attitudes in music with more than enough lyrical deftness to make the likes of Joni Mitchell proud.
Yet while moving from genre to genre, the album never sounds like HAIM are confused about their ultimate destination. Each song organically adds to the mood of the album to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its already-great parts. It is interesting, though, that two of the best songs on the album (‘Now I’m In It’ and especially ‘Hallelujah’) are actually bonus tracks, along with ‘Summer Girl’, which so clearly comes thematically full circle with its ‘L.A. on my mind’ lyrics that one has to wonder why it’s not on the physical album too. At least on streaming services, however, the listener can enjoy the full musical experience, one that takes all these different sounds to create a body of work that sounds quintessentially unique and quintessentially HAIM at the same time.
[Luke McWilliams – he/him – @luxxybee]
[Photo credit: HAIM]