Atwood Magazine’s writers discuss HAIM’s sophomore album Something To Tell You and the sisters’ return to music after four years.
Featured here are: Mariel Fechik, Sara Santora, Kaitlyn Zorilla, Nicole Almeida, Kelly Wynne, Kelly McCafferty, Shannon Ruzgys, and Maggie McHale
This is HAIM’s first album in four years. Did it meet, exceed, or fall short of any expectations you might’ve had?
Mariel: Honestly, I’ve never understood the hype around HAIM. I think they have great voices, but the 80s girl-pop vibe is just something I find kind of outplayed by now, and it’s not like they’re adding much to the canon of Great Music. I thought their first album was just alright, and I expected their second to be just alright. It met that expectation.
Sara: If I’m being honest, I had very little expectations for this album going in, so I guess I would say if far exceeded any expectations I had. I loved HAIM the first time around, but seeing as it’s been four years, I knew to expect a change of sound or writing style, so already expecting that, I was pleasantly surprised, and love the album much more than I could have anticipated.
Kaitlyn: Despite all of the anticipation that was created by such a long break and Days Are Gone being one of my all-time favorite albums, Something to Tell You managed to meet my high expectations. It’s so good to finally have new HAIM music after a silent four years. The music industry, and especially rock music, is still so heavily dominated by male voices that it is so refreshing to have these female powerhouses back on the scene.
Nicole: To be quite honest, I wasn’t too into HAIM with their first album. I listened to it quite a few times and it failed to grab me, the only song I remember from it is “The Wire”. I had no expectation for Something to Tell You except for all the hype that was surrounding the release. I watched the video for “Right Now” when it was released and thought it was interesting, then when “Want You Back” came about I was completely hooked… And when the album came out I wasn’t too impressed. I feel like there’s so much going on there, I’m still trying to figure it out.
Kelly W.: I think this album is absolutely spectacular. Early in the summer I published a tweet that predicted this album would take the cake…and I think it did. Since it’s release, I have been singing and dancing along with very few interruptions from other artists. The album has consumed me and I’m totally okay with it. This album has exceeded my high expectations and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Kelly M.: It truly exceeded all expectations I had. Even just after a week of listening, it’s easy to tell that this is one of special albums that will live on forever. The songs are bright and happy yet timelessly relatable sending messages of heartbreak and hope. It’s different, catchy, and honestly like nothing we’ve heard before.
Shannon: I feel like as a whole I was expecting a bit more from HAIM with this album. It’s been so many years since they released their debut, and in that time you sort of expect a band to grow and their music to progress. While the record overall is good, I just really didn’t get the feeling of any forward motion with it; it’s more like a Days Are Gone 2.0.
Maggie: I think that this album met all of the expectations that I had had for it. The Haim sisters are such objectively talented musicians, and I had a feeling that their impressive technicality and arranging and lyricism would blend together as seamlessly as it always has; I was not disappointed. Days Are Gone was a perfect introduction to HAIM, and of course a sophomore album will always be judged more closely. I think that Something To Tell You peppers in some really interesting instrumentals and intoxicating harmonies, and their songwriting capabilities and their abilities to tell a cohesive story are still as strong as ever.
How do you think Something To Tell You compares to Days Are Gone?
Mariel: I actually like Days Are Gone far better than Something To Tell You. Days Are Gone was fresher sounding – it was an impressive debut, with great production and unique voices, bringing back an immensely popular style in a polished way. However, era-styled bands need to come back with something groundbreaking for a sophomore album if they want to avoid plateauing. Something To Tell You essentially sounds the same as Days Are Gone, if not slightly more pop-leaning and boring. I’m sure their friendship with Taylor Swift did them no favors in that department – even though they are infinitely more talented than she is, she undoubtedly impacted their mainstream exposure. Days Are Gone was more sonically varied. I can distinctly remember songs from that album, having not listened to it in months, while I cannot remember a single melody or lyric from Something To Tell You, having listened to it fifteen minutes ago.
Sara: While both albums contain a retro feel, I feel as though Days Are Gone had more 80s influences, and Something To Tell Youvery much stayed within the 60s and the 70s. Both albums also incorporate some older rock sounds, but to me, the rock in Days Are Gone are a lot heavier, whereas the rock used in Something To Tell You is more soft rock…very reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac.
Kaitlyn: Days Are Gone had such a uniform sound and feel, with the dark, brooding “My Song 5” being an obvious yet welcome deviation. There is much more experimentation on this album; you could slip “My Song 5” anywhere on this album without batting an eye. The production quality has risen and every sound on every track feels completely intentional. While I had a stronger and more immediate emotional attachment to Days Are Gone, it is impossible to ignore the strides HAIM has made in their music-making abilities on Something To Tell You.
Nicole: Definitely a more memorable album, not sure if for the right reasons.
Kelly W: If this album was a color, to me, it would be bubblegum pink. It’s bright and poppy, yet holds its own as the product of a badass girl group. Days Are Gone, to me, felt hunter green. It was heavier, darker, not in a bad way, just in a first-album kind of way. I feel like with this release I have gotten to know the girls on a personal level whereas their first release felt a bit distant from my own life.
Kelly M: Something To Tell You isn’t too far from the catchy, unapologetic, pop anthems we fell in love with on Days Are Gone. It takes the core of what makes HAIM, HAIM and amplifies it to the next level. Days Are Gone is an excellent album, but it has the certain songs everyone has come to know and love. With Something To Tell You – each and every song could easily be someone’s favorite. They’re all special in their own right.
Shannon: I prefer Days Are Gone over Something To Tell You; I feel like a lot of the tracks on Something To Tell You just seem so similar to each other. Days Are Gone had so many standout tracks to me and not only did it really capture my attention, but it also kept me coming back time after time. I’ve listened to Something To Tell You a bunch of times over but I really don’t find myself reaching to put it on.
Maggie: I feel like Something To Tell You offers a more mature sound than Days Are Gone; I think that this album, while remaining true to HAIM’s trademark sounds, is like the cooler older cousin. Days Are Gone, as a debut, was absolutely stunning. Something To Tell You, in my opinion, is HAIM’s way of showing that they want to progress, but still pay homage to their roots.
What is your standout track?
Mariel: I don’t really have one. If I had to choose, probably “You Never Knew,” which has some nice Beatles-esque guitars in it and a nice beat.
Sara: I absolutely adore “Nothing’s Wrong.” I love that it sounded so much like a Fleetwood Mac song, complete with beautiful shimmering guitar lines and that subtle country twang. I also love the song’s vulnerable yet completely relatable lyricism. It’s so simple, yet so honest and so much fun to listen to.
Kaitlyn: “Right Now” has to be my favorite track. Ever since HAIM announced their return by releasing the video of them playing this song in the studio, I have been hooked. The song builds brilliantly; with each new addition, whether it’s Este’s vocals or Alana’s dramatic guitar intro or their trance-inducing percussion section, this song quickly transforms from a piano-driven ballad to a complex, layered anthem.
Nicole: “Want You Back”. I find myself singing this song way too much and the music video makes me want to be a Haim sister and dance around Los Angeles despite my severe lack of dancing skills. The only thing that frustrates me about it is that it made me think the album was going to be much better than I actually thought it was.
Kelly W: I feel like this changes for me every day, but if I had to pick one it would be “You Never Knew.” It gives off major retro vibes yet has a current ease. Start to finish, it’s a song that just makes me want to belt it out. I think it has received the most plays from me.
Kelly M: “Found It In Silence” is my standout track. They powerful lyrics combined with the bevy of pulsating strings make this tune standout in the most positive way.
Shannon: “Found It In Silence.” I love the theatrics in this song.
Maggie: My favorite song is, by far, “You Never Knew.” The harmonies give me chills every time I listen to it — which has been pretty much every day since the release — and the guitar riffs are second-to-none. It is pure HAIM perfection.
Do you have a favorite lyric, instrumental hook, etc?
Mariel: “You Never Knew” does have some really nice background vocals going on – they’re rhythmic and really pleasing to listen to while driving.
Sara: I’ve been completely obsessed with the opening lines to “Walking Away.”
You don’t wanna talk
Don’t wanna work it out
If you were gonna face it you would’ve by now
When were you around?
when were you a-
I love the lyrics — they’re so raw and cutting — and I love that it takes place over a very simplistic beat with Danielle almost whispering. It’s very different from the rest of the album, and I love that.
Kaitlyn: In terms of lyrics, “Found It In Silence” stands out above the rest of the album. Where they have grown in their musicianship, their level of lyricism hasn’t changed much. I feel like this song does the best job of putting a storyline at the focal point of the track and letting it guide you through. The back and forth struggle of moving on from a broken relationship is captured perfectly, especially in this line: “And though I have found happiness / in a life that’s truly mine / you’d think I could just laugh it off / but it gets me every time.”
Nicole: I am an absolute sucker for strings, so the string parts of “Found It In Silence” resonate with me. I like the momentum they create and the dynamism it adds to the song. That being said, I love strings so much that me liking a string-led song is pretty much a given.
I’ve got to cover, I can’t pretend
That I’m anything more to you now
Than someone just hard to forget
– from “Kept Me Crying”
Kelly M: The bridge in “Found It In Silence,” lyrically and sonically, it is just perfect. It’s the culmination of the song. It wraps up everything the song is about and delivers it in this powerful breakdown:
It was always for the better
And I guess I should have known
The truth is, it’s your issue,
I know I need to let it go
And though I have found happiness,
in my life that’s truly mine
You’d think I could just laugh it off,
but it gets me every time
Shannon: I really like the instrumentals in the second verse of “Right Now;” they stood out to me from my very first listen. They’re bold and unique and broke up the somewhat repetitive song for me.
Maggie: For me, it’s definitely a tie between the lyrics in “Right Now” and the lyrics in “You Never Knew.” Upon hearing both of those tracks, their lyricism both resonated with me to the point of some really deep introspection on my own life. Particularly, the lyric in “Right Now:”
Gave you my love, you gave me nothing
Said what I gave wasn’t enough
You had me feeling I was foolish
Forever thinking this could be the one
And then these two lyrics in “You Never Knew:”
Don’t keep me waiting,
To the words that you’re too scared to say
I guess you never knew what was good for you
You know I love to be in love
(You couldn’t take it)
So tired of trying to show you
I worked so hard
Personally, I know that I’ve been in romantic situations directly reflective of these. It’s always so nice to have some music that reflects exactly what I’ve gone through.
Sonically, how would you describe the album?
Mariel: This album truly sounds like it just walked out of the late 70s or early 80s – even their voices sound like they’re from that era, whether that’s forced or not. Sometimes the sonic references feel a little too blatant. It’s like the difference between Frank Ocean and someone who just writes carbon copies of Stevie Wonder songs. Draw inspiration from your influences – don’t try to become them. They’re obviously going for something very specific from that era, but it kind of misses the mark for me. Sonically, I’d describe the album as pretty bland. It’s difficult to differentiate between songs if you haven’t listened many times over, and all of the chord progressions are really similar and uninteresting.
Sara: Certain moments of the album feel very bright and clear, whereas other moments feel very flat or distant. But I think that all of this is necessary when trying to be both catchy and fun, yet very intimate. Not every moment needs to be bright, but it is nice when those moments come.
Kaitlyn: Sonically, this album does a brilliant job of utilizing electronic elements without compromising the classic rock feel of their music. Their tracks sit at a crossroads between the past and the present, and do it wonderfully.
Nicole: Something of a conundrum. Lots of good ideas, but it feels a bit disjointed and lost in its own maze at times. I recognize what they were trying to do, and respect it immensely, but I think the songs are drowned out by the production and their desire to include so many different sounds in a 40 minute album – I mean, were those semi-robotic, metallic, weird sounds necessary on “Found It In Silence”? And Alana’s guitar is so loud and so distorted in “Right Now” that what could have been a beautiful moment of puncturing silence becomes just a loud noise and on top of that you end up barely being able to hear Danielle.
Kelly W: I think it’s bright and larger than life. It’s confident and loud, yet comforting and far from obnoxious. It feels like a celebration of self and love/what’s been lost.
Kelly M: Something To Tell You has not only 90’s nostalgia with tracks like “Little Of Your Love,” but also 70s and 80s with tracks like “Night So Long” and “Ready For You.” And then there are songs that are entirely specific to HAIM in their own right like “Something To Tell You” and “Walking Away.” Songs such as “Want You Back” and “Right Now” are both staples of the wide range of sound HAIM can effortlessly pull off. One is a catchy pop-anthem and the other is a slightly offbeat, heartbreaking pop-rock ballad; completely different, yet flawlessly intertwined. The rest of the album runs the gambit pushing and pulling different sounds, yet flowing together seamlessly at the same time. This is not an easy task, but HAIM has managed to do it. Every note, beat, and lyric where meticulously chosen – each track has a story to tell.
Shannon: It’s easy listening; soft rock mixed with beautiful harmonies and unique but not ground breaking instrumentals.
Maggie: HAIM’s technical ability continues to shine, and the three sisters’ instrumental prowess is bar none. The harmonies that they provide across the entire album complement their instrumentation so amazingly well, that their vocals sound like an instrument themselves. Their sonic chemistry is undoubtedly evident, and Something To Tell You feels like a shimmering homage to the sisters’ musical past, and a wink toward their promising future.
Do you wish they had done anything differently with the album?
Mariel: I just wish that they would’ve gone bigger. They’re undeniably talented musicians, all of them, but it all feels wasted on this type of music. They could also do so much more with their harmonies – I want more of them singing at once, instead of the typical lead vocal with backgrounds style.
Sara: Not at all. I think every part of the album was beautifully written and thoughtfully put together.
Kaitlyn: As such a huge fan of their first album, I do miss the sound of those tracks. But it’s amazing to see how much they’ve grown as musicians and how well they have curated a new sound for themselves with their sophomore effort.
Nicole: I wish the songs were more stripped back because I can kind of see the songs’ bare bones and they are wonderful, but all of this is lost in the sonic confusion that is the album. I cannot begin to explain how frustrated I am with “Right Now” – it is the perfect example of a song that has all the tools to be amazing but ends up being disjointed and confusing because of the way it was produced. Such a shame. I really wish they’d make some demo or acoustic versions just so the songs could shine in their own right.
Kelly W: Nope. I think it’s brilliant.
Kelly M: Honestly, no. The three and a half years they spent on this album i’m sure they traveled every avenue possible to end up with what is now Something To Tell You.
Shannon: Overall I just wish that had not made it so similar to Days Are Gone; I just don’t see any growth with the album. I would have liked to hear them do something that they haven’t done before; harmonizing a repetitive chorus can only capture ones attention for so long. Days Are Gone should be the foundation that they grow upon, not their entire structure.
Maggie: I honestly don’t. I think that while it can be argued that Something To Tell You might be “too similar” to Days Are Gone, I feel that it’s just more of an emphatic reintroduction the group considering they were away for so long. I think, honestly, that Something To Tell You is purposely supposed to sound like Days Are Gone, purely for this aforementioned fact.
Any final thoughts you want to mention?
Mariel: Still can’t get past the T-Swift association. I think that biases me a little. Anyone who trusts her gets the side-eye from me.
Nicole: HAIM, I’ve got something to tell you: less is more. The songs have so much potential. That being said, the visuals for this album campaign are jaw dropping and beautiful (honestly, a big reason of why I listened to this album was the artwork and photos) and the three of you seem like wonderful and funny ladies.
Kelly M.: HAIM’s “Behind The Album” Documentary recently came out on Apple Music — If you loved the album, I recommend watching to gain even more respect for what went on to create Something To Tell You.
Shannon: I think the album is very “HAIM” and that is not entirely a bad thing; Days Are Gone was a fantastic album and was a huge success. I understand why they chose to just stick to what they know, and because they did that I think they churned out an album that is good but nothing more than that. In the future, I really hope that they develop their sound and continue to grow as a band because it would really be a shame if they didn’t.
Maggie: I am just incredibly thrilled to have HAIM back in the music world, and I can’t wait to see where their music will go from here.
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