Something to Tell You is here to continue the band’s summery, throwback rock.
Haim’s debut, Days Are Gone, was a deftly breezy, warm affair that peddled a form of elegant pop rock that died with AM radio. Este Haim’s spacious, thick basslines wrote curlicues around Danielle’s hi-hat heavy percussion and Alana’s delicate touches of guitars and keys, capped off by vocal harmonies from the three sisters that sounded wrapped in pure velvet. The trio has spent the intervening years heavily touring the record, and at long last their follow-up, Something to Tell You is here to continue the band’s summery, throwback rock.
The years spent on the road haven’t pushed the group so much as consolidated strengths. Kick-off track “Want You Back” throws in overlapping bleats of synthesizers over a melody otherwise driven by light guitar and handclap-oriented percussion. This slight tweak represents arguably the most experimentation on the album, slight variations on an unbending core. “Little of Your Love” fills space with Alana’s guitar and tambourine, while “Ready for You” boasts bass guitar so smooth that it starts to sound like someone dusted off 1980s jazz fusion with its humid but casually compressed low-end. The title track is similarly elemental, swiftly moving into bombastic vocal harmonies given ample space against a gentle drum pattern, epitomizing the manner in which the band both enhances and undercuts their occasional lapses into passion, remaining compelling enough to involve listeners while reserved enough to encourage the less adventurous attendees of karaoke to opt for something well within expressive range.
Lyrically, the band is just as locked in to what works. The bright arrangements continue to mask songs about heartache, a loop of longing for love and rejection of hastily made, bad relationships. This tends to result in circular, straightforward tracks, epitomized by “Little of Your Love,” which consists of about 75% chorus and would sound frothy and simplistically out of date even if it had existed in the mid-‘70s soft rock era that the band so ably recalls. On the other hand, “Found It in Silence” finds the group reconciling heartbreak with self-reliance, moving from regretful lines like “Thought he was a modest man/ Who could put me back together again” to the realization that one can only fix oneself, finding strength in realizing that romance is not necessary to feel whole.
This epiphany propels the album’s final third, its strongest run, with both “Walking Away” and “Right Now” tempering the dourness of some of the lyrics with renewed sense of self. The former also boasts some more of the layered drum programming that livens up “Ready for You” into something resembling late Prince work, cyber-R&B for a lounge setting. “Night So Long” manages to convert the band’s frothy style into something closer to the kind of haunting dream pop that would slot easily in a “Twin Peaks” soundtrack, with the bass unfurling in blurting, muted chords to leave gulfs around somber vocals.
Such touches elevate the album from its mostly pedestrian first half, though even these deft numbers do not stretch too far from the band’s established sound. The most notable exception can be found in “You Never Knew,” a hasty collaboration with Dev Hynes that proves a fruitful meeting of minds. Hynes’ longstanding affinity for writing for women results in a subtly busy arrangement that fragments the trio’s harmonies to play off each other, spiraling off and intersecting at exciting moments. Hynes also intrinsically gets the band’s AM throwback, and the track plays up the group’s heavy percussive syncopation by coupling them with pronounced, bouncing vocal lines. Copious trills of synthesizers manage to fill up the space left by the band’s usual arrangements while still leaving enough to remain true to the group’s style. It’s a thrilling track, one that makes all the more frustrating the group’s difficulties elsewhere to explore the limits of their engaging sound.