California’s golden sisters deliver one of the most anticipated pop albums of the year. But is it hip or just hype?
Days Are Gone is the long-awaited debut album from Haim. If you’ve been in a coma for the past 18 months, then you can be forgiven for not hearing the news that they are the ‘next big thing’. Since signing with Polydor in the summer of 2012, sisters Este, Danielle and Alana Haim (with male drummer Dash Hutton) have received a raft of accolades, including topping the BBC’s Sound Of 2013 industry poll. But each dose of media hype was followed by the caveat that the band had not yet released an album. On 30 September, the speculation can end, and a new phase of Haim hype can begin, as the eagerly-anticipated debut Days Are Gone is finally released. Then a new caveat can emerge: ‘But is it any good?’
Answering that question is tricky for the majority of us who have already heard the six previously released songs on the 11-track album. The brilliantly hip hit singles Falling, Forever and The Wire kick things off and the girls are cruising along in what has become their signature 80s groove – it could be the soundtrack to a lost Ferris Bueller’s Day Off sequel, or a hidden radio station on GTA Vice City.
as close an affinity with Janet Jackson as they do Stevie Nicks
Then we get to fresh Haim material, but still the super-slick 80s production sensibilities pull the whole collection of individual tracks together to a Holiday-era Madonna package. In fact, If I Could Change Your Mind could’ve been an early Madge song, and there are doses of The Police and The Pretenders along the way (Honey & I and Go Slow). So far, so 80s. That is until the dark phat-riffed My Song 5 comes out of the modern hip-hop territory you’d expect from Kanye West or Timbaland, and suddenly Haim are looking back to the future. In fact, now we have a wider view of the band, those early comparisons with Fleetwood Mac are looking way off the mark. It appears the girls may have as close an affinity with Janet Jackson as they do Stevie Nicks, and so they should considering their age (Alana wasn’t even alive in the 80s).
Regardless of their years, it’s testament to their genuine respect for these eras, as well as their abilities as musicians, that every retro gem is carried off with youthful conviction. There’s maturity coupled with the bravado though – at times it’s easy to forget this is their first effort at a long-player and it could almost be a ‘Best Of’ compilation. Which is also its flaw, as Days can feel like a collection of 11 singles, rather than a cohesive single album.
Overall, the LA girls have delivered an admirably confident album that should fulfill fans’ appetites, precariously balanced between of-the-moment indie cool and calculated mainstream stadium pop-rock. Kings Of Leon and The Killers have managed to sail successfully through these unforgiving waters, but for every success story there are plenty who sink without trace. What Haim are capable of as songwriters and musicians is still yet to be realised, but we can be sure they’re on the right path.
Verdict: A confident debut of 80s-worshipping pop-rock… with a few surprises