On Haim’s third album, frontwoman Danielle drives endlessly around LA, away from a shaky relationship and her own malaise, sometimes towards illicit desire but mostly to nowhere at all. “Woke up at the wheel on the edge of town / It all looked the same every mile / Screaming every word of Both Sides Now,” she mutters over the stonewashed, slippery beat of I Know Alone.
Melancholy and aimlessness are a change in pace for three sisters known for their vivid Fleetwood Mac homages, taut pop rhythms and arresting demands for clarity. Danielle, bassist Este and guitarist Alana all experienced depression while writing Women in Music Pt III, which they once might have sublimated with euphoric pop. Instead, they translate desolation into richly searching music, putting familiar sounds through their distinctive filter: fluttering G-funk (3am), homages to Walk on the Wild Side (Summer Girl) and Joni Mitchell at her most seething (Man from the Magazine, an acoustic riposte to a leering journalist), and Led Zep bounce (Up From a Dream).
They subvert pastiche with explosive yet contained production – agitated rhythms, corroded riffs, unexpected celluloid-melt transitions – that suggests Danielle bristling against her own limitations, yet never inhibits a massive chorus. The Steps turns a petulant stomp into an anthem of frustration, while a cathartic scream crests through the hook of All That Ever Mattered. The familiar becomes bracing. The album is also their first real foray into detailed emotional songwriting, Danielle outlining a visceral sense of disconnect from signs in dreams that nobody can read, strangers’ beds and estranged lovers’ clothes. By leaning into the lows, Haim open up bold frontiers.