So the wait is finally over. The worldwide buzz generated over the past year by LA-based sister act HAIM, fueled by a slew of singles, festival appearances and tour dates with Mumford & Sons and Florence + The Machine, has finally been punctuated with an oft-talked-about, much-anticipated debut album, Days Are Gone.
To be sure, HAIM have earned every bit of the acclaim they’ve received so far. Their feel-good blend of 70’s pop-rock with a twist of 90’s R&B is simply contagious, and their reputation as the live act to see at festivals is built upon solid, consistent performances. But even in this day and age of singles, there’s something about turning in a full-length album that legitimizes a band, demonstrating whether the band can make an extended artistic statement, and whether they can give their fans something of value to listen to at home and in the car, not just onstage. With this debut, we actually have something by which to measure.
Let’s start with the good news about Days Are Gone. First, HAIM have, for the most part, made an album that is worth the wait. It’s well-produced (by the likes of James Ford and Ariel Rechtshaid), largely consistent, shows off the sisters’ best musical qualities, and certainly demonstrates that they can do their sound justice in the studio, not just on the stage. Fans will find familiar ground in the already-popular singles “Don’t Save Me,” “Falling” and “Forever,” as well as a few surprises along the way. The girls have developed a very smart sound, one that is not so much trendy as it is timeless, (it’s a great thing to be compared to Fleetwood Mac), and their signature syncopated rhythms (frequently punctuated by 80’s-style reverb-laden handclaps) make them a great addition to party playlists. All of that comes out clearly on the record.
But that isn’t to say there isn’t room for growth. While HAIM’s sound is quite recognizable, it’s also a bit limited—and when they seem to recognize that and try to expand their range, it comes across as a bit awkward and aimless. The first half of the album is the most cohesive, but admittedly feels a little repetitive—then, almost as a response to this, the track list begins to wander into unfamiliar territory toward the end. Most out-of-place in this scenario is the track “My Song 5,” which basically sounds like a weird, fun experiment with electronic gadgets. While it’s the track that most highlights the band’s 90’s R&B influences, the highly effected electronic bass line that follows their vocals becomes very grating very quickly, making the track impossible to take seriously. The album recovers a bit with closing tracks “Let Me Go” and “Running To Call My Name,” but style-wise, these cuts don’t really match the overall tone of the rest of the record. The end result is that the record starts off strong, but sort of loses its way at the end.
In HAIM’s defense, these are not symptoms of a band who do not have their crap together, but rather symptoms of a band who are still maturing, still figuring out who they are. Thankfully, despite the missteps, the sisters have managed to show off enough of their strengths in the album’s opening tracks that they will almost certainly have plenty more chances to evolve and grow with future recordings. All told, Days Are Gone is a respectable debut from a band that show a great deal of promise—a band who have the potential, like their Fleetwood Mac predecessors, to be timeless.