We’re going to do two reviews a week here – one of a new album (less than a year old) and one of an older album. We also thought it’d be cool if our reviews took the form of a discussion, with humor and personality, rather than a dry essay. Our new album review this week is of Haim’s album Days Are Gone. Click “continue reading” to check it out.
Haim are a band from Los Angeles, CA, consisting of sisters Danielle, Este and Alana Haim. Their songwriting style has been likened to Fleetwood Mac with updated production. They released an EP called Forever in July 2012, and won the Sound of 2013 BBC poll. Days Are Gone is their debut album, and will be officially released September 30. You can get it here.
Oscar: Sorry I’m late, my food took forever.
Zen: Food is one of the more important things in my life, so I forgive you.
Oscar: Thanks. Eggs and toast and bacon seemed a priority.
Zen: Most things with bacon should take priority. So, which first?
Oscar: Should I flip a coin?
Zen: If you have one near you. If not, I’ll gladly flip my guitar pick.
Oscar: I do. Heads is Haim, tails is Kate? You call it.
Zen: Heads. The suspense is almost unbearable.
Oscar: Heads it is.
Zen: So, what made you pick this album?
Oscar: Haim, in the past 6 months, has become one of my favorite bands around. I loved the Forever EP, and the singles, so when I heard this had leaked, I immediately chose it.
Zen: Good reason. Having become one of your favorite bands, did their debut meet your expectations?
Oscar: I’m not sure about exceed, but I’ll decide by the end.
Zen: Good way to keep our readers interested.
Oscar: Yeah. How did you feel about it?
Zen: I really enjoyed myself, although there were moments of disappointment that I wasn’t expecting. But that could merely be because I hadn’t spent a whole lot of time with their sound before diving into their album, so the idea I had of them as a band was slightly askew.
Oscar: OK, fair.
Zen: Favorite 3 tunes?
Oscar: “Days Are Gone” is number one.
Zen: While not one of mine, that’s a good call
Oscar: I’ve always thought they were great songwriters and could make a very tight song, but “Days Are Gone” I feel like has real potential to become a pop classic. It’s perfectly produced and perfectly catchy.
Zen: I can get behind that.
Oscar: To me they have two sounds – their classic rock sound, á la “The Wire,” and their more polished, ’90s R&B-influenced sound, which I think was exemplified perfectly in “Days Are Gone.”
Zen: I can also get behind that.
Oscar: Number 2 is “My Song 5.” It completely defied everything of theirs I had heard previously, while still sounding distinctly like them.
Zen: Without a doubt. It is also one of the most badass things I’ve bumped in a while.
Oscar: And the title makes me think they made it on GarageBand, which, if it’s true, is unbelievably cool, and it makes me respect them a lot more.
Zen: Anyone that can make dopeness out of GarageBand gets a ZAP from me.
Oscar: For any of the 7 billion people on this planet who are ignorant of what a ZAP is, could you just explain it quickly?
Zen: Way to put me on the spot. Got me blushing and all. Essentially a “ZAP” is an acronym standing for “Zen Approved Point.” But that’s not all. It is also my initials.
Oscar: Zen Anton Peterson.
Zen: How awful would that be if that was my actual name?
Zen: Would you even still be my friend?
Oscar: I’m not sure. But anyway, my third song is “Falling.” That’s been a favorite of mine since it came out, and that hasn’t changed – especially with this redone version on the album. By the way, the fact that they essentially re-recorded all their previous singles is one of my favorite things about the album.
Zen: I actually didn’t notice that. But that’s only because, as stated previously, I haven’t listened to their old stuff enough. But that’s a very cool thing.
Oscar: Yeah, they added vocal tracks and little instrumental things. The songs aren’t entirely redone but just stuff like an extra synth line or multiple people singing instead of just Danielle.
Zen: Yeah, that’s fantastic.
Oscar: Yeah, so that’s my top 3. Yours?
Zen: “Don’t Save Me.” Like “Falling” for you, ever since I first heard it I’ve loved it.
Zen: While I didn’t love every track on the album, when Haim make good songs, they make ridiculously good songs. Just perfectly constructed. You can tell that they’ve spent a lot of time just being listeners and learning from the musicians they love and implementing those tricks into their sound. I’d be curious to learn how much input any outside voices had on making the final product.
Oscar: The writing credits are pretty much all just them.
Zen: Number 2 would be “My Song 5.” It came at the perfect moment because I was beginning to wonder if they’d change their sound at all, and then that disgusting wobbly bass sound came in and I fell in love all over again.
Oscar: It was such a surprise. Amazingly shocking.
Zen: Yeah, just superb. I also really liked that the song it self sounds super dirty yet the lyrics and the girls aren’t trying to be super sexy or something like that. Just fucking badass. That’s one of the things I respect a lot about Haim.
Oscar: I’d say they’re the dopest females in pop music, in terms of their persona.
Zen: Yeah, I’d give them that award. “The Wire” would be my 3rd.
Oscar: They’re like “We’re girls and we’re more badass than many, many dudes. Fuck with us.” “The Wire” is a good choice and a perfect example of what I’m saying.
Zen: They are by leaps and bounds more badass than most dudes I’ve met, seen on TV, heard about in most mediums. Besides being a wonderfully produced song, I was so grateful for a breakup song that was neither Taylor Swift being all weepy nor someone like Rihanna talking about how they’re gonna “be just fine without you in my life.”
Zen: Haim was more along the lines of “Man, I liked you, now notice you have testicles and get over it.”
Oscar: Yeah, and it was very realistic, I felt. “When it came down to the wire, it felt right.” is very honest. Like, sometimes shit just doesn’t work out. But also they’re not faultless, being “bad at communication” and all.
Zen: Realistic is a good way to put it. They were by no means claiming to have been saints, which was also refreshing.
Zen: Bottom tracks?
Oscar: This is harder. I like these songs, but they’re the only three that have 4 stars in my iTunes and not 5, so I guess they’re the ones. I think my least favorite was “If I Could Change Your Mind.” No. “Honey & I,” followed by “Let Me Go,” followed by “If I Could Change Your Mind.” Just the ones that didn’t blow my mind quite as much.
Zen: I have the same list, in different order. “If I Could Change Your Mind,” “Honey & I,” “Let Me Go.” I was actually really unimpressed by all of them. While Haim is strong in the lyrics department, all those joints sounded incredibly contrived to me. Almost as if they were much earlier songs in Haim’s career that had never been updated.
Oscar: How come?
Zen: Haim do near perfect interpretations of pop/rock and yet our bottom picks felt like imitations of perfect pop/rock songs. I also thought the lyrics, mainly to “If I Could Change Your Mind,” were surprisingly unoriginal.
Oscar: I agree with the lyrics thing, and to an extent the other point, but I still think they were well-executed, and ended up a good final product.
Zen: Fair. I was disappointed mainly because I thought the standard had been set so high by the rest of the album.
Oscar: Good point.
Zen: Favorite musical and lyrical moment?
Oscar: Do you have ones? I don’t yet.
Zen: I’m thinking.
Oscar: OK I can go. Musical is probably the redone stuff, if that can count as a moment.
Zen: I dig.
Oscar: If that can’t count, then I’d say “honey I’m not your honey pie” in “My Song 5.” Or when the bass comes in on “Falling.”
Zen: My favorite musical moment was the “honey I’m not your honey pie” too, except when they did the pitch shifting sound. I’m a big fan of that sound, although too many motherfuckers are doing it poorly, and Haim’s choice to use it I thought was dope and totally out of left field. Musically would probably from “My Song 5” as well, when the distorted guitar came in. They proved to anyone concerned that they could take an already badass joint to even higher levels of boot smashing.
Oscar: My lyrical moment is the chorus of “Go Slow,” I think. I like how dark it is – “and now I hate who I’ve become” etc.
Zen: That was a moving moment. I also just realized I picked two favorite musical moments. This might be a sign of sleep deprivation.
Oscar: Yeah I was gonna point that out. Do you have a lyrical moment?
Zen: “But I fumbled when it came down to the wire.” Like you mentioned, that line has a lot of honesty to it that I find really compelling.
Oscar: Good choice. Shall we do a final score?
Oscar: Who first?
Zen: Go for it.
Oscar: OK. 8.5.
Zen: One of the highest things you’ve rated.
Zen: And I must ask, did it exceed your expectations? We can’t leave our readers without answering that question.
Oscar: I don’t think it exceeded them. I think it met them, and defied them, especially the second half. Actually, sure. It exceeded them.
Zen: That was a rollercoaster of emotion.
Oscar: Yeah, sorry.
Zen: No man, it’s good to let the feelings out.
Oscar: Yeah. Uh, what was I gonna say? Oh, right. When I saw the tracklist and so many songs that had already been released, I was worried and my expectations fell. But they redid those bitches. I was afraid of a My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy scenario. It’s a great album, but like almost half of those songs had been released in the G.O.O.D. Fridays thing, and he didn’t really remaster any. I was disappointed. But yeah, so they exceeded my expectations.
Zen: Valid points.
Oscar: I thought this was a perfect pop album for our times. A perfect mix of electronic instruments, synths and drum machines and stuff, with real instruments – it’s very distinct from any other contemporary pop act. And a consistently high level of songwriting and production.
Zen: I agree all those things to a certain degree. One of my complaints about the album was too large of an electronic side and sometimes too glossy of a production. When I said I had a skewed idea of Haim as a band, that was what I meant – I thought they were a little more raw. While I don’t hold that against them, clearly this is a sound they are fantastic at and find pleasure in making, I wanted a few songs to rock a little harder. There were no true guitar solos (“The Wire” had a few wailing notes but I wasn’t really satisfied), and I thought that a few songs begged for the addition of something like that.
Zen: So with that said, I’d probably put this album at a 7.7. No, 7.8. I really need to become more decisive with my decimals.
Oscar: It’s OK, it’ll come with time.
Zen: However, while my score for Haim’s album was lower than I would have liked to give, I award them 9 ZAP points for being badass dope individuals.
Come back next week for our reviews of King Krule’s 6 Feet Beneath the Moon and the Chemical Brothers’ Dig Your Own Hole.