Haim are staying hopeful
If you’ve driven (or marched) through West Hollywood in the last month, you’ve likely seen Haim looking down from above. At the corner of Santa Monica and La Cienega the band appears on a Spotify billboard alongside a massive quote: “We’ve been feeling nostalgic for our bat mitzvah years and only listening to top 40 hits from 2004,” it reads.
In reality, nostalgia is the last thing on the sisters’ minds right now. This week, Haim will drop their long-awaited third album, Women In Music Part III. In spite of shifting release dates and cancelled tours, sisters Alana, Danielle, and Este have gone to work in every sense of the word since self-quarantining in mid-March, shooting music videos at home, teaching dance classes via Zoom, and, in the wake George Floyd’s murder in late May, dedicating themselves — and their social media accounts — to the fight for justice and reform in support of Black Lives Matter.
“It’s important to us because there needs to be a change in this country,” says Alana. “We don’t take it lightly that we have this platform and we want to use it as best we can to affect change.”
Listening now, it’s hard not to hear echoes of the past three months on the songs on Women In Music. Album opener “Los Angeles” finds the band navigating hopelessness against the backdrop of their home city. “I Know Alone” is a somber ode to depression set against an elastic bassline. The chorus – “I know alone like no one else does” – rings out like a quarantine anthem. “I listen to that song and it is literally how I feel right now,” says Danielle. “It’s exactly how I feel.”
Timely as it is, Women In Music was conceived following the band’s last tour in support of their sophomore record, Something To Tell You. “There was this crazy feeling of going from 100 to 0 so quickly,” recalls Alana of those first months of writing. “You feel really lonely, and you don’t know how to jump back into life. It felt very eerie and weird, and it took a lot of self-reflection and checking in with myself to get through it.”
That sense of self-reflection permeates every track on Women In Music, from the cathartic “kick in the face” of “The Steps” to the album’s penultimate masterpiece “Hallelujah,” which finds the sisters trading powerful words of thanks for one another. The song, based in part on the tragic death of Alana’s best friend, is easily the most candid they’ve ever written. “There are things that I've talked about on this record that I’ve always been too scared to talk about,” says Alana, “just because I didn’t know if I was ready to talk about this stuff every night. Making this album there were so many moments like that, where putting yourself out there feels like freeing yourself, in a way.”
Musically, you can feel it too. Driven by sparkling production and the band’s signature groove, Women In Music sounds like a band letting go of any pretenses. Case in point: “3AM,” Haim's funky, early-2000s hip-hop inspired ode to booty calls. “It was really important to us just trying to be spontaneous — to just have fun with it and not take everything seriously,” says Alana. Elsewhere, the band’s muses run the gamut, too. There’s a subtle nod to Sheryl Crow in the vocal phrasing of “I’ve Been Down.” On “I Know Alone” they name drop Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.”
“That song in particular I used to sing all the time when I was younger,” Danielle remembers. “When I was writing 'I Know Alone,' I was in a dark place. Seeking Joni as my friend and putting her music on helped me through those dark times. In that way, it’s kind of symbolic of all music for me.”
For all these reasons, Women In Music feels like it’s arriving at exactly the right time. “Some days are up and some days are down and I think that’s normal,” says Este, “but the thing that keeps me hopeful is that I keep seeing people helping one another. At the protests we’ve attended people are making sure everyone around them is safe, handing out masks, hand sanitizer, water, etc. It’s been really beautiful and encouraging to see everyone come together.”
“For the last few months much of the world has been self-isolating, which has brought about feelings of loneliness, depression and loss — and those are all feelings and emotions that inspired this album,” adds Danielle. “We’ve heard from fans how the songs we’ve released like 'Hallelujah' or 'Summer Girl' have helped them get through a difficult time and we hope that the album continues to do that.”