Trio of sisters back with incredible commentary, deeply personal release
Following the massive success of their sophomore album, Something To Tell You, HAIM released their third LP, Women In Music Pt. III, on June 26 after being delayed due to coronavirus. Nevertheless, this release was well worth the wait, finding HAIM at their absolute best with a record that’s confident, intimate and shockingly self-aware all at once.
A trio of three multi-instrumental sisters—lead vocalist Danielle Haim, lead guitarist Alana Haim and bassist Este Haim—HAIM went into the studio to make a therapeutic record this time, rather than something akin to their traditionally fun and flirty sound. Produced by Danielle, along with her partner Ariel Rechtshaid and former Vampire Weekend instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij, the darker tone and slick production allowed them to do just that.
Honesty bleeds through these tracks, with each sister being terribly upfront about their personal traumas, namely Alana’s unprocessed grief following the death of a young friend, Este’s battle with Type I diabetes and Danielle’s crippling depression. The grace and transparency with which the sisters approach these struggles is both admirable and makes for a jaw-dropping collection of songs.
Whereas old-school HAIM built a career on their relatability and vague lyricism, Women In Music Pt. III finds them flipping the script with Danielle painting vivid, specific scenes for listeners. In “I Know Alone,” she sings, “Woke up at the wheel on the edge of town/ It all looked the same, every mile/ Screaming every word of ‘Both Sides, Now,’” and in “I’ve Been Down,” she tells listeners she’s “Taped up the windows at the house.” The specificity with which the band approaches the lyrics on this record take it miles above anything they’ve released before.
HAIM aren’t afraid to explore and push boundaries musically either. This release finds them at their most theatrical, introducing found sounds like seagull calls and busy café noises, as well as added commentary, like “Nope” and “Fuck no” in the middle of melodic lines. “3 AM” is perhaps the most fun song on the album, starting with a recording of a booty call and ending with layered voicemails.
Musically speaking, while there are classic HAIM songs that pay homage to that signature ‘70s sound of theirs, such as “Don’t Wanna,” for the most part, the band does genre acrobats throughout the track listing, jumping from tight pop-rock to electronic to country. “Up From A Dream” is far and away the heaviest song to ever come from the band, complete with dirty guitar riffs and a chugging bassline.
While the cheeky album title Women In Music Pt. III indicates just how personal this album will be, HAIM doesn’t let it fly by without some kind of commentary on the rampant misogyny of the music industry. In an experimental way, “All That Ever Mattered” allows Danielle to repeatedly unleash this guttural scream, a move typically reserved for male-fronted rock groups. HAIM throws the rules out the window and in toying with the accepted conventions of pop-rock music, they make their point loud and clear.
In a less discrete way, the band literally condemns and calls out the misogynistic behavior they’ve experienced in easily the boldest song on the record, “Man from the Magazine.” The song opens with them recalling an incident where a male interviewer asked Este if the faces she makes on stage are the same ones she makes in bed, followed up by the time a music store owner offered Alana a starter guitar on the presumption she couldn’t play because she was a woman. The song brilliantly ends with Danielle singing over and over, “You don’t know how it feels,” before finally landing on, “To be the cunt.”
Even though every track may not be revolutionary, Women In Music Pt. III is, on the whole, a masterpiece. It is personal. It is political. It is impossible to walk away from without more than one listen. This is HAIM at their best but they are far from over, which begs the question: how can it possibly get better?