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Album Review: HAIM — ‘Women in Music Pt. III’

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HAIM, consisting of sisters Danielle, Este and Alana, have always been known for their emotionally involved lyrical style with their inclinations toward expressing personal anguish and enlightenment, triumph and tragedy, whilst remaining vague enough for the audience to harness the ability to effortlessly insert themselves within the work. 

haim women in music

The group’s new album Women in Music Pt. III (WIMP3 for short) walks that similar ground as a musical power able to dish out reality through a lens of relatability. Regardless of who you might be, there will be a song that will get you looking inward. It’s an album replete with underlying truths made aware through thorough introspection, whether they be truths on a more individual level or truths regarding external forces at play. Realizations that it’s okay to find solace and acceptance in being not okay, contradicting feelings of utterly bitter loneliness in the presence of companionship and love, and divulgements of direct experiences with misogyny are all neatly embedded within the content of this album. WIMP3 may be considered dark, but that affirmation is due to it being crucially and brutally candid, becoming a kind of digression from convention and comfortability. Its rawness paves the way for an augmented emotional experience through which discomfort followed by intrinsic recognition can be manifested. 

The album is sandwiched between two tracks about Los Angeles, coincidentally the place where I was born and raised, making these songs (“Los Angeles” and “Summer Girl”) carve out a special space in my heart. But even though these songs may be specific in that they speak to one city, feeling connected to them can hold true no matter where your hometown might be. As delineated in “Los Angeles,” we’ve all had bittersweet thoughts toward the place we’ve always called home, a place that can be a source of sorrow, confusion, stagnation, and grief. “I’ve done my share of helpin’ with your defense / But now I can’t dismiss / It’s killin’ me.” But just as in “Summer Girl,” those initially painful feelings of rejection toward the place you call home are fleeting, vulnerable to dissipation because that place where you call home will eventually and inevitably hug you, hold you and, trust me, love you.

Personality and empathy can’t be shown more than in “I Know Alone,” with Danielle’s sincere, moody and lush voice immediately disseminated through our earbuds. A genuine tune detailing the repetitive and sometimes menial movements that come with loneliness, aimlessness and everyday small internal battles that can feel gargantuan and unbearable. In addition to the harshness of feeling these isolating feelings, the perception of their extremity becomes even more palpable when we are expected to disguise outwardly expressing those feelings. And HAIM describes this phenomenon beautifully: “when Sunday comes they expect me to shine / (Now Sunday comes and they expect her to shine).” The track “I’ve Been Down” also conveys a similar sentiment as “I Know Alone,” but its undertones are angrier and laced with frustration, rather than despondent toward those contradicting feelings of loneliness in the presence of others. Sometimes we’re just in a funk, and no one, no amount of love, support or care can bring us out if it. “The love of my life / Sleepin’ by my side / But I’m still down.” And the fact of that freaking sucks.

WIMP3 also gives us the back-to-back songs of “Don’t Wanna” and “Another Try,” both about the aching desire of trying to make a relationship work in the face of potentially crippling adversity. “Don’t Wanna” begins with a groovy and steady beat coupled with a catchy chorus that is oh-so-familiar with HAIM’s signature sound, while “Another Try” (about Alana’s ex) draws light inspiration from r&b and funk, containing a more elaborate production than other songs on the album (but maybe not as much as the glam-rock “All That Mattered” with its shredding guitar solo). The next track, the guitar-plucking folk-style “Leaning On You” is a simplistic call for affirmation and validation. 

HAIM has shown us time and time again that they are not afraid of transgression from the small circle of comfort, whether it’s calling out certain feelings and thoughts that we all indubitably have had or are too scared to admit that we do, or calling out blatant misogyny in seemingly normal everyday interactions. “Man from the Magazine,” which sounds as if it could have been sung by Joni Mitchell herself, is influenced by two specific events: when a music store clerk, driven by assumption, hands Danielle a “starter guitar” and when a sexist interviewer asks Este if all three of them make the same faces in bed. This track is a huge middle-finger to the music industry’s fueled misogyny and an anthem that is meant to antagonize and incite discomfort at how commonplace these kinds of experiences are for women. “You expect me to deal with it / ‘Til I’m perfectly numb / But you don’t know how it feels / You don’t know how it feels / To be the cunt.”  

“Man from the Magazine” isn’t the only track derived from the band’s personally held memories. “Hallelujah,” the beautifully crafted soft ballad that also channels folk and Fleetwood Mac, is inspired by the loss of Danielle’s best friend, “You were there to protect me like a shield / Long hair / running with me through the field / Everywhere you’ve been with me all along.” 

Every single track off this album is woven from the same thread. While each song evokes different images, memories, emotions and feelings, they all are bound with a certain fluidity, tied to another with one cohesive string, not unlike a charm bracelet. Each song is its own unique charm joined together to create an exquisitely concocted album, one that will be able to ignite fervors within anyone, and I mean anyone, who takes a listen.  

Stream the entire album here.

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