REVIEW: HAIM – Days Are Gone

 

HAIM - Days Are Gone

HAIM – Days Are Gone cover.

HAIM is a band I’ve been following for some time, as regular readers would know. It was back in July 2012 that Light+Shade first posted about the Californian sister act, highlighting their great track Better Off. Since then, the band has been picked up by the mainstream and bounced around on tours across the globe. I saw them in Iceland and  Australia, and they have played in many other places in between, including some giant festivals. The girls won the prestigious BBC Sound of 2013 award as well, and are currently touring with French legends Phoenix, and all of this without an album release to be listened to by an ever-growing and adoring fanbase.

But now those album-less days are over. Or should that be Days Are Gone, reflective of the band’s debut album title? It’s been a long time coming. The question is, has it been worth the wait.

With the world being what it is, many of the tracks on Days Are Gone have already been heard. What that means is that fans will find few surprises when they take a listen. All the crowd favourites are there – Falling, Forever, The Wire, Honey And I, Don’t Save Me, Let Me Go – but there are a couple of tracks I’d not heard before.

If I Could Change Your Mind is one of those, It carries the hallmarks of the other tracks. There is something “disco” about a number of the tracks on the album, and this is no exception. The funk guitar of Danielle pops through behind her vocals. The pop drums and keys are a delight in the chorus, and it all works well, with the familiar lyrical angst a young girl can muster.

The title track, sadly, is a disappointment and probably the weakest of the collection. Vocally, it’s poor from the outset, and as a whole, the track is somewhat predictable in its composition and lacks energy or feel. Lyrically, it’s OK, but certainly not as strong as all the other tracks around it. It feels almost like another band, yet it’s the title track. A curious choice.

In contrast My Song 5 is one of the stronger tracks. It’s got a gritty hip-hop feel, and is really unusual, and delightfully hard to follow. I can’t imagine it will get many runs live, but the moody guitar solo and outro would be an excellent addition to any live set, I reckon.

And therein lies the conundrum with HAIM. Recorded, they’re a bright little bunch, with pop sensibilities and a clear sense of fun if lacking a little edge. But live, they’re a completely different proposition. They’re tougher, rockier, harder edged, with a heavyweight punch. They play hard on stage, and give their all. They crank everything, they’re messy at times, but always great to watch. Dash Hutton is a fantastic drummer, with terrific feel and groove, and as band’s go, they always deliver a super performance that energises their audiences.

But somehow, that’s all been lost in the studio.

Let Me Go is as close to the live delivery I’ve witnessed, but even that is softened alarmingly in the production. Danielle’s guitar solo, a highlight of every show I’ve seen, is toned down massively and lacks any power whatsoever. It’s as tame as a kitten, rather than roaring like a lion as it does live. It’s a crying shame, and a real missed opportunity. Pumping up the headphones didn’t even save it for me. The closer, Running If You Call My Name, is undoubtedly the best produced track on the record, along with Don’t Save Me. They suit the softer style perfectly, but what’s been missed is that other tracks don’t. It’s strange that HAIM’s live performances didn’t hint at that for those that recorded and produced Days Are Gone.

The poppy tunes work better in the studio, but I hope for their next release HAIM finds a different producer, one who’s prepared to let the loose nature of their talents shine through. The only sour point of this release is that while the girls have some terrific songs here, dripping with emotion and stories of the trials a tribulations that girls of their age all go through, it’s all watered down on the finished product. A bit or a kick in the guts after the clear effort that has been put into the song-writing and performance,

But don’t get me wrong. This is a great debut. That much is clear from the way the drip feed of tracks has been received positively across the world. The girls will only get stronger, and it’ll be exciting to follow them into what is shaping up as a very bright future.

You can listen to Days Are Gone in its entirety on NPR ahead of its release on 30 September.

 

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