Album Review: Haim – Days Are Gone

[Columbia / Polydor; 2013]

Combining existing sounds in different ways can be nearly as exciting as finding new ones. This isn’t lost on California sister act Haim (HIGH-yim). Their sound can find a kindred spirit in every decade since pop music has come into existence. They also have everything they need to be earmarked as a buzz band: musical ability, charisma, sex appeal, an appropriate swagger level, oodles of personality, and fistfuls of hooks.

But singer/guitarist Danielle, bassist Este, guitarist/keyboardist Alana Haim and drummer Dash Hutton are something more than just amalgamators. Their debut album, Days Are Gone, avoids taking the path of least resistance, a path that can permanently hamper a buzz band’s outlook. Instead, it’s so steady-handed, so influentially diverse, and so ludicrously enjoyable that you really should really do some soul searching if it doesn’t do something for you.

Much of the appeal of Days Are Gone lies in the simplicity of its sometimes pop/sometimes rock songs. The melodies are instinctive and effortless, the lyrics undemanding, and the production (courtesy of Ariel Rechtshaid and James Ford) is shiny and modern. Very little of it is cloying. In other words, the kind of music that inspires honest-to-goodness excitement.

And if you like the Haim songs you’ve already heard, you’ll probably like the rest of them. While the production values are somewhat standardized, the album finds diversity by way of sundry rhythms and sharp vocal work. Danielle sounds like any one of Stevie Nicks, Fiona Apple and Victoria Legrande, but her heavy use of staccato inflections lends an electrifying R&B wiggle to “Forever” and “If I Could Change Your Mind.” When they do mix it up sonically, all of their affable qualities translate. “My Song 5” brings Sleigh Bells levels of compression, while the titanium pulse of “Let Me Go” is both confrontational and entrancing.

If Days Are Gone has a weak spot, it’s most definitely found in the lyrics. Then again, if you’ve come to this album looking for life advice, you’re in the wrong place. If you need a little motivation, however, Haim have you covered. The repeated chant of “Never look back/Never give up” on icebreaker “Falling” drives this point home quite well, along with crisp percussion and a metric ton of reverb gloss. In the best-case scenario, as found on the irresistible “Don’t Save Me” or the nimble single “The Wire,” there are modestly incisive rundowns of love lost.

The most exciting thing about Haim’s sound is the number of potential direction they can take it from here. For band who released their first single less than 12 months ago, Days Are Gone is a sizable accomplishment. With the triumvirate of googly-eyed rhythms, sinfully catchy melodies and a breeziness that seems only fitting, they’ve served up one of the most auspicious debuts of the year.