The Student Playlist

Showcasing the Best New Music, Curating the Classics

REVIEW: HAIM – ‘Something To Tell You’ (Polydor)

  • 7/10
    - 7/10


Having spent nearly four years on it, ‘Something To Tell You’ sees HAIM return with their critic and public-pleasing formula fully intact.

Ah, the elusive good follow-up to a successful debut. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why a second record by a break-out band so often turns out to disappoint. Maybe it’s the pressure of having to repeat a possibly once-in-a-lifetime thing. Maybe it’s the audience’s unfair hype following up to the release. Either way, after the astounding success of their 2013 debut record Days Are Gone, the L.A. sister three-piece HAIM have definitely had to deal with all of the baggage that comes with recording a decent sophomore album, and they’ve spent the best part of four years making Something To Tell You.

Days Are Gone was an interesting mix of mostly ‘70s soft rock sprinkled with ‘90s hip-hop and R&B influences, but they pulled little from seemingly each decade of contemporary pop music as well as genres that usually don’t go that well together. All of this meshed together under the sisters’ pronounced musicianship and Ariel Rechtshaid’s production to make an album that not only earned them extremely positive critical reception across the board, but also a deal with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, and touring spots alongside pop’s very biggest acts like Taylor Swift.

For their second record, Something To Tell You the band doesn’t seem to be interested in reinventing themselves or subverting the formula that made their debut such a success. Probably for the best too, as the genres they were pulling from in the first place are such a deep well of amazing pop music that it would probably serve them better to just keep exploring it, as it has far from run dry yet. And explore it they do, however, managing not to fall into the trap of being a “vintage” or a “revival” band, and adding their own take on these recognizable sounds. Songs like ‘Want You Back’ and ‘Ready For You’ perfectly showcase the group’s insane ability to write interesting and yet still groovy percussive lines, possibly stemming from the fact that all three sisters had picked up the drums as their first instrument. Their ability to harmonise with each other seamlessly that earned praise from critics and other musicians alike is also present and, thankfully, as prominent as ever.

A lot of debt is obviously owed to the producer as well, as Ariel Rechtshaid returned to produce the record. His experience from working with other acts like Vampire Weekend and FKA twigs shows, as the album blends its acoustic as well as its electronic sounds really well. And perhaps the strongest aspect of Something To Tell You is that it sounds good as a whole. There’s no weird parts that seem out of place, there’s no one particular instrument or sound that overshadows everything else. Everything flows and seems like it fits in within a singular audio narrative.

Something To Tell You seems to lean on the soft rock, Fleetwood Mac side this time around, and subsequently a little less on the ‘90s R&B. There’s nothing quite like ‘My Song 5’ on this release, which sounded like The White Stripes covering Destiny’s Child. Rather than just completely unleashing that side of their musical personas and engulfing a singular track with it, Yoncé vibes seem to be pushed a little more in the background, only discernible from the way certain percussion parts are structured or little electronic sounds that provide some general ambience for the tracks. As a result, Something To Tell You sounds just a tinge more grounded and radio-friendly. Just a tad more T-Swift. Songs like ‘You Never Knew’ and ‘Little Of Your Love’ are about as good as “I’m over it” anthems can get.

Speaking of HAIM’s touring buddy, the lyrical themes of the album never seem to stray far from the contemplations on love and relationships gone bad by every 20-something year-old ever. It’s by far the band’s biggest shortcoming and it seems just plain strange how they manage to pull from so little when it comes to their lyrics when juxtaposed against how many different things they pull from musically. Take how interesting the production and the arrangement of ‘Right Now’ is and put it against the lyrics of the song: “Gave you my love, you gave me nothing / Said what I gave wasn’t enough / You had me feeling I was foolish / For ever thinking this could be the one”. Ground-breaking…

HAIM is still a trio to watch out for. They managed to somehow pull together a sophomore album that should please both critics and fans yet again. They’re definitely unique in their sound and musical approach, even in the vast expanses of the music industry (and their live shows are incredible). The only thing holding them back is their lack of insightful lyrics, but perhaps that will come with age. (7/10) (Ellie Wolf)

Listen to Something To Tell You here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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