Haim opens their sophomore album by singing, “Some things are long forgotten/Some things were never said.” These lyrics serve as an apt prelude to a record that attempts to add a new response entry to an eternal question: Why is falling in love so complicated?
“Something to Tell You” has been long awaited, with four years elapsing since the band’s debut record, “Days Are Gone,” was released in 2013. Haim is comprised of three sisters, Este, Danielle and Alana, who formed their girl group in 2007, which didn’t manifest itself into a serious career until 2012. Since releasing “Days Are Gone” with Jay Z’s record label, Roc Nation, the Los Angeles natives have risen in popularity.
Their debut album earned widespread critical acclaim, including a coveted spot on Pitchfork’s “100 Best Albums of the Decade So Far” list, and secured them gigs like opening concerts for Taylor Swift and Rihanna. Their sound was categorized early on as genre-defying, with rock influences evident through their frequent use of electric guitar and percussion, but with definite notes of pop, R&B and hip hop also existing in their earworm lyrics and booming background beats.
The band’s latest album takes the many sounds that influenced their debut record, “Days Are Gone,” and hones them into a pop rock album that deliberately draws on other genres for inspiration. More than their sound, however, Haim’s second record demonstrates a stronger focus on unified songwriting. All of the tracks showcase different angles on the longing, joy, loss and fear that accompany matters of the heart. The result is an album that expertly mixes genres and catchy hooks to explore the deep contradictions that exist when people fall in and out of love with each other.
Several songs on the first half of the album make falling in love sound joyous and fun. “Want You Back” is energetic and hopeful, a cheerful apology letter that acknowledges mistakes by singing, “I know it’s hard to hear it/And it may never be enough,” and promises a brighter future with lyrics like, “I’ll give you all the love I never gave before I left you.” “Ready For You” has a similar vibe, with lyrics that explain that though a couple’s timing was off before, getting together in the present moment will result in a happy reunion. Both songs focus on the joyous feeling that accompanies a realization of love, and, underneath, the anxious sigh of relief when loneliness ends.
“Little of Your Love” is also an upbeat song, but the anxious longing to fall in love is more apparent. The singer urges the listener to love with abandon, without thinking about the consequences it might yield by pleading, “Could be so easy, you make it hard/Don’t think about love too much/My love is gonna be enough.” This conflict will come to a head later on in the album, as other tracks explore the heartbreak that kind of reckless connection can leave behind.
All three songs create their positive sound with catchy, repetitive hooks and clever styling. “Little of Your Love” sounds like it’s from a different era, or perhaps several; Danielle Haim told Pitchfork that she wanted to hearken back to that ’50s rock vibe the way music in the ’70s and ’80s did. For example, “Ready For You” uses voice effects to create a unique bridge, and “Want You Back” is framed by percussion beats and a steady guitar.
The second half of the album, including track two, “Nothing’s Wrong,” uses the same upbeat vibe, but explores the opposite end of love thematically. Instead of celebrating a reunion, the songs analyze the process of falling out of love and dealing with the aftermath. “Nothing’s Wrong” conveys the unspoken heaviness that arises when love seems to slip away from a relationship stating, “Going through the motions/It’s slipping away, Sleeping back to back/You’re turning away.” “Something to Tell You” has a similar message, but focuses on the specific moment when you know that a relationship isn’t going to work out, but you don’t say anything because you’re afraid of heartbreak.
Their lyrics seem to touch on the universal urge to choose denial over truth in hard situations with lines like, “Because I know if I tell you everything’s alright/Oh, we could stay in this moment, I’d never say goodbye.” I’ve experienced the longing to ignore bad vibes in a relationship so that heartbreak can be put off, so to hear that specific feeling reflected back in Haim’s music was comforting.
If these songs explore the darker side of heartbreak, “Right Now” feels like the complete antithesis to “Want You Back.” The song sees picking an old relationship back up as not joyful, but as a frustrating continuation of a toxic cycle that won’t quit by explaining, “You had me hanging on a dream you never believed.” Because each point of view in a getting-back-together situation gets its due, a complex idea about disconnect between partners comes to light. While a reunion can feel like a harmless idea to one person, the other may still be raw from heartbreak and view the notion with skepticism and mistrust.
The album’s deepest revelation comes on its last track, “Night So Long.” It is the only song that wasn’t written by all three sisters, but just by lead singer Danielle Haim, and the singular, lonely feeling of that act shows. The harmonies that pervade much of Haim’s work are showcased in full force, giving the song a quiet, devotional, almost church-like feel. The track is just the repetition of a chorus, but its lyrics seem to cut to the heart of Haim’s core suggestion about love, that sometimes a relationship isn’t about a specific person at all, but about chasing the feeling of love itself, and having to confront loneliness when that love slips away. “I say goodbye to love again/In loneliness, my only friend,” Danielle croons in the opening lines, giving voice to a deep feeling of solitude.
“Something to Tell You” is intensely enjoyable to listen to in that even without paying attention to the lyrics, the music is upbeat and unique from many of modern pop’s standard sounds. Their throwback, California vibe is present throughout, and keeps the songs fresh even when they start to sound similar. Haim creates fun and extremely listenable songs out of complex emotions, and that act itself seems to emphasize the importance of basking in the joy that love can bring while you can, because its purity is often fleeting and never uncomplicated.