ALBUM REVIEW: Haim delivers expansive pop on ‘Women In Music Pt. III’

Haim, Women In Music Pt. III

The sax solo that rings in the opening notes of Women In Music Pt. III, the third album from Haim, sets an immediate tone for the trio as it embarks on an alt-pop journey. The Haim sisters may have needed to push the album back in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but releasing it during the first week of summer seems more fitting.

Women In Music Pt. III
Columbia, June 26

As many of the tracks grow, they develop and end at a completely different place than where they started. The opener, “Los Angeles,” is an ode to the love-hate relationship between the band and its hometown. The song is lifted not only by the smooth sax solo, but also by a jazzy wandering bass line courtesy of Este Haim, which drives the song with its upbeat groove. Vocally, Danielle Haim has a bit of a Sara-Bareilles-like quality to her delivery here.

“The Steps” blends classic rock with a dose of Americana. The guitar playing and drumming both have a lo-fi character to them, with a breezy and summery vocal delivery. “If you go left/ And I go right/ Baby that’s just life sometimes” Danielle Haim songs in the infectious bridge.

The album takes an experimental turn on “I Know Alone.” The track builds off of a trippy, chopped-up byplay between the vocals and the electronic drum loop. The vocal harmonies in the number’s bridge create a robotic sung-spoken pattern. The song fades into a mix of harmonies, loops and samples.

Meanwhile, a deep breath fittingly opens “Up From a Dream,” which mixes a swaying classic rock sensibility with a modern alt-pop sheen.

The summertime sounds of “Gasoline” bring the divine qualities of Haim rolling on all cylinders. Sweet vocal harmonies fuse with a powerful percussion and no-nonsense guitar playing to create an expansive foundation that could parts the clouds in the sky. As the band has done on and off on 2013’s Days Are Gone and 2017’s Something to Tell You, it veers into hip-hop and R&B territory on “3AM,” which melds big beats with soft soulful melodies. The song builds into a full-on bop by the second verse, which delivers an effective surprise in the early stages of the album. “Don’t Wanna” returns to the pop-rock sound, with a sleek guitar solo to boot.

“Another Try” is subdued, beat-heavy ballad, fused with keys, loops, unique sound effects and samples mixed in along the way. The stripped-down “Leaning On You” turns back the clock even further. The track is built on a vocal harmony, acoustic instrumentals and some light percussion.

“I’ve Been Down” is an especially interesting track as it mixes groove-heavy old-school funk rock la The Roots with the Haim’s breezy pop sound. The trio strips just about everything back for the earnest acoustic “Man From the Magazine.” The record then takes a 180-degree turn for “All That Ever Mattered,” which is built on big electro-pop bass blasts, vocal harmonies awash in spacey reverb with a quick soaring guitar solo.

“FUBT,” an ode to the complications of love, again pulls the instrumentation back to a strummed guitar until the rest of the band kicks in for a final chorus and  another rousing guitar solo. “Now I’m In It,” one of the album’s early singles, fuses an ’80s pop sensibility with a modern attack. “Now I’m In It/ And I’ve been trying to find my way back for minute,” Danielle Haim sings.

“Hallelujah” slows things down to just a single fingerpicked guitar for the introspective and retrospective lyrical track, where the vocal harmonies mix again with some retro stylings. The album closes out with the funky stylings of “Summer Girl,” finishing the way the album started with a breezy saxophone accompaniment and smooth and sweet vocals that scream summer.

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