|Haim at Lollapalooza 2013 | Photo by Jason Gonulsen|
Written by Elizabeth Eckhart
Haim is undoubtedly easy listening. Despite their sometimes rocker tone (which is much more downplayed in record version), the band flirts with nothing experimental, obscure, or strange. Their sound isn’t entirely new, but perhaps it is this very return to guaranteed easy listening that makes Haim stand out from the crowd. It’s not difficult to enjoy their sound, which the sisters themselves have admitted is influenced by the likes of Stevie Nicks and Phil Collins. The sisters’ twang is also reminiscent of Shania Twain, if Shania had a stronger, more fist-pumping beat behind her and played the bass guitar. As these tweets (found through social media aggregator Viral Heat) show, their fans love to debate what exactly makes Haim sound so familiar, yet still refreshingly unexpected:
Haim sounds like when Hanson went through puberty and it’s wonderful.
— Steph Rogers (@StephR2D2) March 24, 2014
Does anyone else think Haim sounds like Shania Twain?
— Ben (@BlueSkiesLife) April 3, 2014
This Haim song straight up sounds like if a Blondie power ballad married a Madonna record.
— Nick Andopolis (@louistomlinGAAY) April 9, 2014
Greg Kot, of the Chicago Tribune, rightfully pointed out that calling Haim retro was to completely ignore the past two decades, and also insisted that placing the trio squarely in the 80’s hardly does them justice. The sisters have elements of throwback similar to 80’s electro, but with the traditional aspects of indie rock bands. Their indie sound, on the other hand, isn’t based around guitar, but instead uses the guitar as an additional texture – it shares an equal stage with percussion and vocal elements, in many ways, it becomes a percussive instrument itself. As Alana told Drowned in Sound, “We were never like a strummy kind of band. Strumming a guitar always sounded kind of cheesy to us. Not to say that strumming a guitar is cheesy; it can work, but it always sounded kind of weird in our tracks. So we always kind of used the guitars as a percussion instrument.” Not that they forgo the rest of the percussion set up; in addition to their drummer, Dash, and their own guitars and keyboard, Alana has a floor tom, Danielle works a barreling kick, and Este plays the rack toms.
The sisters also channel a good amount of 2000s pop and R&B into their music, sounds that they grew up listening to. For example, Destiny’s Child, Aaliyah, and Mariah Carey were counted among some of the girls’ earliest R &B influences, as evidenced by Days Are Gone’s harder rhythmic toughness and flowing vocals. Their own sound has also has elements of earlier artists, too. Prince is often mentioned, due to Haim’s harmonic tendencies. Add this in with a touch of vibrant, California sound, and we might begin to come close to what Haim really is.
It doesn’t hurt, of course, that Haim is, at their core, very good at writing catchy tunes. Catchiness isn’t always necessary, but Haim’s choruses always click, their sound remains consistent throughout the album, and the quality is always effortlessly beautiful. In fact, it’s highly possible that no matter which songs were released of Haim’s album as singles, those songs would have been instant hits.
As effortless as their sound is the girls’ personalities, which have contributed to their growing fan base. The girls look relatable, with their long, free-flowing “hippie hair” and relaxed styles, and they’ve also been known to goof off for the crowd. Additional family members have joined them to jam on stage multiple times, and the girls readily interact with crowds. They’ve picked up shoes thrown on stage (upon request) and Alana responded to a young lady who threw a bra to her at Lollapalooza in 2013 – commenting on the fact that the two were the same size, and she understood the pain of having a small chest.
The sisters draw from an eclectic range of influences. They’ve created something nostalgic, but with enough contemporary nuances to keep things interesting. Their sound is polished, and glossy enough to please a widespread audience, while their rough percussive additions, and passionate live performances cater toward a harder ear. Haim, and their core, is a pleasing conundrum, and a band that will hopefully continue to release music for years to come.