After a year and a half of torturous waiting and anticipation, the next pop sensation is finally here. More inspired by the likes of Fleetwood Mac and Aaliyah than Lady Gaga and the trendy EDM scene, the sisters (Este, Danielle and Alana) of HAIM have arrived with a fresh, infectious brand of pop. Featuring eleven independently strong tracks, Days Are Gone is a remarkably complete album pillared by substantive lyrics, themes of loss and letting go, and melodies heavily informed by pop, rock and 90’s hip hop and R&B. The album is one you are bound to find yourself listening to from beginning to end on repeat, and could easily be considered one of best debut records of the year.
Though the sound of Days Are Gone quickly changes from one track to the next, the album’s quirky cohesion and flow are two of its strong suits. Days Are Gone opens with “Falling,” a fan-favorite single released earlier this year that serves as a true hook and implies that the best is yet to come. While the track’s tribal drumbeat intro almost perfectly captures the anticipation that has preceded this record, its danceable rhythm, groovy bass line and addicting melody appropriately introduce the distinctive brand of indie-pop that defines HAIM.
Throughout the remainder of the album, no subsequent track mimics the initial feel of “Falling,” but somehow each song hinges onto the others to form a complete picture by the end of 45 minutes. In a sense, Days Are Gone as an album may very well serve as a representation of the sisters themselves, effectively mirroring the distinct personalities of, and close relationship between, Este, Danielle and Alana Haim. As the final notes of “Running If You Call My Name” fade away, the listener is left with a sense of satisfaction, closure, and possibly even a newfound understanding and appreciation for the sisters of HAIM.
The fact that Days Are Gone is a truly polished effort from start to finish is perhaps one of its most compelling attributes. Although HAIM has previously released nearly half of the tracks on the album either as singles or on EPs, upon first listen Days Are Gone feels fresh, not stale, and each and every song has something different to offer. Some of this credit undoubtedly must go to producers Ariel Rechtshaid and James Ford, who have worked with the likes of Usher, Vampire Weekend, Florence and the Machine and the Arctic Monkeys. However, in addition to a refined sound complete with production values not accessible to most up-and-coming bands, most songs on Days Are Gone also possess a number of intangibles only a talented band can provide.
Alongside a solid combination of unforgettable hooks and gripping vocal melodies, HAIM’s meaningful pop lyrics cover of love, loss and letting go across musical tracks both heavy and light. The album’s first official single, “The Wire,” is a perfect example. With an undeniably catchy verse and a chorus you are bound to find yourself singing in the shower, on your way to work and in virtually any other situation where singing to oneself is appropriate, this upbeat take on a breakup song features transparent, expressive lyrics like “But I just couldn’t take it, I tried hard not to fake it / But I fumbled it when it came down to the wire.”
While the songs released prior to the band’s debut, like “Go Slow” and “Forever,” remind listeners of the fresh and varied indie-pop sound that has firmly established HAIM’s presence as a band, those newly released with Days Are Gone entertain and excite. “If I Could Change Your Mind” tackles a similar subject as “The Wire” while adopting on a much darker, heavier sound. Throughout the song, jazzy guitar riffs and vocal harmonies between the sisters pair with heartfelt lyrics to beautifully paint the track with emotions of regret, guilt and heartbreak. Showcasing a totally different feel, title track “Days Are Gone” impresses with a bright verse, instrumental fills and an unforgettable bridge (clearly influenced by Ford’s work with Florence Welch) that may be one of the record’s top musical moments. Though the theme of the title track is anything but bright, the song is nevertheless one of the best on the album and emphatically demonstrates the musical skill and flair that make HAIM such an enthralling young band.
The influence of genres like classic pop/rock and 90’s hip hop/R&B across multiple tracks on Days Are Gone is also particularly exhilarating and refreshing. Lending itself to the production background of Rechtshaid, “My Song 5” features a thick bass line, grungy guitar and a heavy beat reminiscent of hip hop/R&B’s heydays of the late 90’s and early 00’s. With its blunt, in-your-face message, “Honey I’m not your honey pie,” the song is a well-timed change of pace and a surprising show of versatility from the band that listeners will certainly come to love on the album and in a live setting.
Between its solid songs, strong production, and varied, original pop music sound, Days Are Gone is an album for anyone who truly appreciates well-written and meaningful pop music. With this record, doubtlessly one of the best debuts this year, Este, Danielle and Alana Haim are poised to make waves in the indie-pop/rock world for the remainder of 2013 and well beyond. These sisters’ days as a supporting, web-based indie band may be gone, but this album is proof that for the sisters of HAIM, the best days are yet to come.