HAIM were an unexpected delight in 2013 with their debut album, Days Are Gone. That album was an unabashed love letter to rock music of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, with HAIM being able to up the ante by incorporating vocal effects, synthesizers, and electronic drums into the mix—staples of the music they enjoyed as millennials growing up in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. When Days Are Gone was released, the buzz on HAIM was that the band was a cross between ‘80s-era Fleetwood Mac and ‘90s-era R&B. Think Tango in the Night meets En Vogue. The result was a 45-minute morsel of achingly sweet power pop that could simultaneously appeal to fans of rock music as well as Top 40 pop. As quirky as it all seemed, HAIM had tapped into something unique. Now—four years later—on their sophomore release, Something to Tell You, HAIM continue to work their magic, crafting songs that walk the delicate tight rope between the retro and the modern, songs which are much more dynamic and atmospheric than those that appeared on Days Are Gone.
As she did on HAIM’s debut, guitarist and lead vocalist Danielle Haim lyrically dissects the ins and outs of romance with little ambiguity. Often times, Something to Tell You reflects upon personal relationships in a way that can become thematically redundant. But, at its finest moments, the album is uplifting and uncompromising. The album begins with “Want You Back,” a song about admitting mistakes and longing for forgiveness. Danielle delivers a raw, empowered vocal performance, while intermittently trading harmonies with keyboardist and vocalist Alana Haim. Elsewhere, the thumping “Kept Me Crying” is a dead ringer for any of the best work of The Eagles. It’s slickly produced guitar solos sound like Joe Walsh is right there in the studio with HAIM, going off on a tear. The groovy shrug off of “You Never Knew”—a kiss goodbye to a lover who’s taken too much for granted—is where HAIM showcase their uncanny ability to take the aesthetic of ‘70s rock, and accent it with the stylization of contemporary R&B. The beauty of a song like “You Never Knew” is that it could be mistaken for a lost Janet Jackson track—or a deep cut on a Michael McDonald-era Doobie Brothers album.
While Days Are Gone was dense, compact, and at times seemed to move at breakneck speed, Something to Tell You lingers a bit, like a shadow in the night, wrapping itself inside the listener’s subconscious until something starts to click. Perhaps that’s more contemplation than a pop record would normally require. But on the other hand, maybe that’s what pop music needs. The takeaway from Something to Tell You seems clear: rock ‘n’ roll can be a blast, especially if you can make a record that would have Don Henley dancing like nobody’s watching.