Nearly half of the songs on Days Are Gone, the debut album from Californian band Haim, had been known as singles for some time before the record’s release, or just because they were ‘out there’. But who can blame them? The Haim sisters proved they clearly know their way around warm, infectious tunes, full of accessible melodies – choruses are instantly memorable, strings of lyrics crawl around your brain – but maintain a fresh, sun-kissed edge that’s honest to their West Coast roots.
Their pre-album tasters certainly drummed up a respectable amount of attention in the media. Numerous positive reports about their playful brand of nostalgic indie rock (they have been compared to the likes of Fleetwood Mac and R&B group En Vogue) resulted in them winning the BBC Sound of 2013 and their hype exploding. Although, in the latter months, this was overshadowed amidst cries of “When’s the album coming out?”
But it’s here and it’s fantastic.
If anything, they were being modest with their early releases. Any song on Days Are Gone could be released as a single. Each track possesses a radio-friendly atmosphere whilst retaining the band’s signature fiery style.
The album starts with three of these singles. Muted, reverberating drums shudder on ‘Falling’ before the shout of “Hey!” comes in, signalling the start of something good. With a brilliant chorus and a sing-along chant of “Never look back, never give up,” it’s an excellent opener and an excellent song. And Haim stick to those words, kicking off an album that’s only just getting started
This is followed by the earthy drum intro of ‘Forever’, a slice of perfect indie pop. It clinks and clanks along wonderfully, its uplifting sound underplaying its yearning tone.
The Fleetwood Mac influence is clear on the third of this trio of singles, ‘The Wire’. A reflective, contemplative look at relationships and the decisions that go with them (“I know that you’re gonna be OK anyway”), it’s a more subdued affair but still packs a punch.
The pace changes with ‘If I Could Change Your Mind’ and ‘Honey and I’, two brilliant mid-tempo tracks – sweet and bright yet still just as easy to dance to. They could easily soundtrack someone gazing out of a window on a sunny day in a film: calm and thoughtful, with moments of happiness.
Another single comes in the form of ‘Don’t Save Me’. With about three different choruses or so, the song keeps finding new ways to Velcro itself to your mind. It’s a fun song but with a heavy message: “I can’t go on if your love isn’t strong.” Not only is ‘Don’t Save Me’ one of the best songs Haim has made, it is one of the best songs of this decade, full stop.
Perhaps the greatest song on the album though is the title track, ‘Days Are Gone’. Its addictive melody is coupled with stabs of synth and it sounds glorious. Its motif of reminiscing is juxtaposed with a sense of strength and security, although moments of fragility break through: “Sometimes I wish I didn’t miss you at all.” This should definitely be released as the next single, but, as mentioned earlier, I could say the same about pretty much every song here.
Things get moody with ‘My Song 5’. A riotous, chaotic snarl with stomping drums and growling bass – it’s Haim versus a marching band. Imagine an angrier ‘Hollaback Girl’. And that’s a good thing.
This darker, brooding theme is also found on ‘Let Me Go’. A relentless four minutes of wistful riffs and galloping drums, the song builds and builds, adding and layering, its crescendo paralleling the increasingly desperate nature of the song. The sisters half-harmonise, half-plead, “Let me go, you know I’m not one for leaving,” with their overlapping cries emphasising every line. By the end, we definitely know. Its structure is simple but its power is undeniable.
Days Are Gone sounds like the girls’ native Los Angeles in an album: sunny and clean on the surface but not everything seems so light and cheerful underneath. As a debut, it’s assured and significant. As an album, it’s magnificent.