The Los Angeles sister band HAIM — their last name, one that rhymes with “time” — employ rock’s instrumentation, but chop it up so finely it stutters like R&B. They’re not the first to do this, of course, but HAIM’s blend, a mix of bright, brittle percussiveness and soft sisterly harmonies, feels unique, a sound that’s both nervous and resolute. It feels like youth, that knowledge that everything’s already been done before, but that you’ve nevertheless got to make your own mark. Providing most of the instrumentation as well as the singing, Este, Danielle and Alana Haim do exactly that.
There are other precedents to HAIM — Tango in the Night-era Fleetwood Mac in the precision of the production and the assuredness of the hooks; the sunniness of the Mamas and the Papas or Wilson Phillips. But because the songwriting is as strong as the sisters’ delivery is nonchalant, there’s an immediate and assured identity here that’s striking, and it transcends its many influences.
Nearly every cut exudes the confidence of a single: There have already been four of them, and that doesn’t even count “If I Could Change Your Mind,” a soft-rock plea punctuated by handclaps and hi-hat from the disco gods. And yet there’s plenty of weirdness too: “My Song 5″ features not just Tom Waits-goes-dubstep moves and a righteous double-tracked fuzz bass solo, but also super-distorted virtual trombones that essentially fart along with the vocal. Wilson Philips never thought of that.