There are certain things about SXSW each year that stick with you. 2012 was no different. Be it rumors of a super group of two rappers with four hands performing songs off an upcoming project. Or talking food trucks with beloved European singers. Or the ever-present rumblings regarding which sponsor topped all sponsors with inflatable, multi-story objects. But the one thing that distinctly stood out in 2012 were the constant talk and buzz surrounding three California girls. They were the group to see, and all female. There’s always that perennial all-female band that people flock towards, then drift away once the novelty wears off. But there’s a intangible essence surrounding Haim that has, up to this point, proven that this trio may stand the test of time-or sibling confrontations.
Days Are Gone, released on Columbia Records, marks the true beginning of one of the most anticipated groups in recent years. Last year, their Forever EP hit shelves in February prior to those SXSW appearances. Before that the sisters Danielle, Este, and Alana had spent their entire youth cultivating and embracing music. The Haim sisters first began performing in a 70s cover band along with their parents (they thought it was cool to play with them). Granted, now everyone has The Brady Bunch and bell bottoms in mind, but soon Rockinhaim transformed into the Haim we know now in 2006. Their first concert, in a truly blockbuster way, kicked off in the summer on 7/7/2007. Julian Casablancas of The Strokes became pivotal in the creation, advising Danielle to have the group perform less and be more selective of their concerts, as well as bringing her on board to be a touring guitarist. Danielle also drummed for Jenny Lewis.
Album opener “Falling” echoes back into 80s, early 90s influences. Peppered electric guitar bunches up around Danielle’s lead vocals like ethereal steam on those classic New York streets captured in those films of many of our childhood memories. It builds with drums and synths that envelope you like a time machine, transporting you to 1989. Taken from the EP, “Forever” heralds Vampire Weekend-esque guitar over southern California summer freedom. A pleasant jangle with dangling percussion, “Forever” may just be the ideal soundtrack to summer barbecues or lazy poolside parties
The 80s influence is apparent especially on “If I Could Change Your Mind,” “Honey & I,” and “Don’t Save Me.” The latter, surely to provoke unconscious hand clapping over synth keys, successfully draws nostalgia to the forefront in a more authentic manner than say…Lana Del Rey. Haim’s debut makes you want to learn the songs, sing along in the bar, and completely forget the fact these aren’t the songs you grew up with as a child, but are those that debuted while you were starting your career. The songs that are comfortable to the ears and to the soul.
The group and press has name checked Brandy, En Vogue, TLC, and Destiny’s Child, although it’s tough to draw direct comparisons. There’s a few 90s R&B elements present, notably on “Days Are Gone.” The catchy, higher ranged verses over R&B rhythms encircle the track. Although the song gets a bit drowned out by “My Song 5,” the most edgy track drenched in distorted tuba. It stalks the rhythm, dipping back halfway through with a glimmer of Destiny’s Child, before stumbling wonderfully into a gritty guitar. The only people who may be able to make this one better would honestly be UK’s Savages.
Produced by Ariel Rechtshaid and James Ford, Haim fulfills the sustained hype with Days Are Gone. It’s a comfortable, pleasant jump back into nostalgia without the rough tribulations that befall Bill & Ted. Personally, I hope for more guitar work and rock to justify the 1970s remarks floating around the music world. Yet if there was any female group to pull it off, and remain the one to root, it would be Alana, Este, and Danielle.