Haim: Something to Tell You

These songs remain as tightly constructed, propulsive, and personally relatable as ever, and it's hard to deny the talent Haim has for hooks and intricate songwriting.


Something to Tell You

Label: Columbia
US Release Date: 2017-07-07
UK Release Date: 2017-07-07

Haim specialize in pinpointing a specific place along a continuum of distance. Though their songs are often big, snappy, extraverted affairs, the L.A. sister trio has a way of capturing the small moments that accumulate while closing the space with another person, or else watching as that person gradually slips away. Their 2013 debut Days Are Gone, easily one of the best and most consistent records of that year, was particularly adept at packaging its tales of heartache, longing, and growth in a contagiously fun amalgam of power pop, R&B, and rock.

Now, the Haim sisters find themselves in the unenviable position of having to follow up such an impressive debut. After four years in gestation, expectations have been inevitably high for Something to Tell You, and like many a sophomore LP before it, the album may have difficulty emerging from the shadow of its predecessor. The self-consciousness inherent in such a situation, while mostly minimized here, occasionally becomes evident and drags the record down. Certainly these songs remain as tightly constructed, propulsive, and personally relatable as ever, and it's hard to deny the talent the band has for hooks and intricate songwriting. At times, though, the record has difficulty coming alive.

Part of what made Days Are Gone so incisive was the theme, expressed right there in the album title and its associated track, of life transitions and irrevocable change. Combined with all the romantic angst, it added a certain bitterness and scope to their work that lent it a sense of urgency. Something to Tell You has more of an established and secure feel to it, as might be expected. Without the shifting, liminal dynamic of its predecessor, however, the stakes just don't feel quite as high here.

Haim supply energy in abundance, of course, and the tightly wound stomp of lead single "Want You Back" comes close to previous heights like "Forever". "Nothing's Wrong" and "Little of Your Love", meanwhile, find the sisters sounding like convincing heiresses to Shania Twain's throne of crossover country-pop. The record is full of finely calibrated hooks and riffs, though at times it becomes saturated and over-packed. It can feel as though the trio is trying to breathe life into these songs through sheer will and determination alone, even if something seems to be missing deeper down.

The record starts to open up more toward its second half, especially as Haim allow themselves to slow down. "You Never Knew" is a refreshing change of pace, evident from the very first beats of its tropical percussion embellishments. There's something liberating about the track, which spaciously accommodates warm sunshowers of acoustic guitar; distant, breathy backing vocals; and as infectious of a chorus as you'll find on the whole album. The elliptical R&B of "Walking Away", featuring a maze of multi-tracked vocals, is also a clear highlight. These moments allow the trio to explore or further refine their musical territory. While largely continuous with Days Are Gone in terms of genre and sound, Haim certainly play with new ideas on Something to Tell You, even if other moments, like the orchestral pop of "Found It in Silence", don't stick quite as well.

When a live studio version of "Right Now" emerged as the first taste of the album, I had assumed this would be its resident "raw" song, occupying the same space on the track list as Days Are Gone's "Let Me Go". While "Right Now" is certainly a brooding, simmering number, the song is immediately outdone in this category by the stripped-down finale, "Night So Long". With dark guitar strumming that wouldn't sound out of place on Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's I See a Darkness, "Night So Long" is a near-harrowing account of isolation and sadness. "In loneliness my only friend / In loneliness my only fear…I say goodbye to love once more / No shadow darkening my door", Danielle Haim sings despairingly, though the song gradually coheres toward redemption as it progresses. Between this track and their previous record's "Running If You Call My Name", Haim's most underrated talent may well be penning honest, emotionally searing album closers.

Indeed, "Night So Long" feels by far the realest, most honest number on an album that occasionally grows cloudy and opaque. At many of its poppiest moments, the core of Something to Tell You can be obscured in its crowded tapestry of hooks, licks, and rapid fire refrains. It shines best when Haim step back, relax, and allow the songs to expand into their own idiosyncratic shapes.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.