I’ve been a fan of sister act, HAIM, since their excellent debut effort, Days Are Gone. I believed then, and still maintain, they’ve got that certain intangible something that makes them stand out amongst the mundane multitudes. It’s not just their talent. They were born to do it, that’s plain. Brought up in a musical family, the girls have got the goods, to be sure. But it’s more than that. It’s an attitude, a passion well expressed. When I saw their first performance on SNL, it was obvious. They felt it. So, you can imagine, I looked forward to their next offering with great anticipation.

Their sophomore effort Something to Tell You is a bit of a mixed bag. A lot of bands struggle with the follow-up to their initial release – the sophomore slump they call it. Overall, it’s a competent if somewhat castrated album. They went the pop route full bore this time around. It’s disappointing. They threw their rock in a tumbler and wore down the edges to a sheeny gloss. In my opinion, it was a decision that played against their strengths. I saw them as a bonafide little rock’n’roll outfit – not a Wilson Phillips clone…which many of the tracks bare an unfortunate similarity to.

The record kicks off in promising fashion with the radio friendly “I Want You Back”, a well-crafted confection that belies its dark lyrics – a paean to young love lost. The sisters have a flair for creating unpredictable cadences in their verses that keep you off balance. It’s a quality ditty, with solid instrumentation – the slap and tickle of Este Haim in particular is a stone groove. Sadly, the rest of the songs don’t hold up comparatively.

First off, the production is untenably slick. It seems a conscious, if misguided, decision on the band’s part to replace their guitars with synths and drum loops. If the idea was to make their stuff more radio friendly, it was a miscalculation. By homogenizing their sound, they do themselves a grand disservice and compromise their innate musicality and spirit to the point of near irrelevance. Half the album passes in a sleepy candy crush before we get to “You Never Knew” a laidback RnB jam that ably shows off their organic side. Girded by a slinky synth this mid ‘80s homage is a welcome relief from the polyrhythmic similitude.

Random thoughts:

  • “Found it in Silence” Kate Bush called and she wants her song back.
  • “Kept me Crying” FINALLY some guitar! Unfortunately, it sounds choked to death by a million plugins.
  • The final track “Night So Long” is effectively moody but sounds like a throw away off of Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love

Ultimately, HAIM’s sophomore record is a bit on the slumpy side. Still, I have not lost faith in their abilities. Second albums are always a dicey affair. They’ll nail it next time!

6.0 Sophmore slump

Ultimately, HAIM’s sophomore record is a bit on the slumpy side. Still, I have not lost faith in their abilities. Second albums are always a dicey affair. They’ll nail it next time!

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