It’s hard to imagine anyone looking back at 2020 as anything other than a drag of a year. Among the few bright spots of this year, however, is the onslaught of fantastic new music. Adding to this joyous parade is the magnificent third album from HAIM, Women In Music Pt. III (or as the Haim sisters like to playfully refer to it: WIMP3).
How good is this album? So good it can make you forget all of the turmoil happening literally outside your window. I know I’m not alone in feeling a sense of uneasiness among everyone these days.
HAIM seems to sense this too, and it reflects in the various struggles which they portray—romantic struggles, life struggles, self struggles—presented in such a way that empathy flows back and forth between artist and listener.
It’s been well-documented that the bulk of the lyrics came from a dark time in the lives of all three Haim sisters: Danielle, Alana and Este. I can’t emphasize this fact enough: not only are they sisters, but they come across in performances, interviews, and, yes, this album as the closest of friends, which adds even more depth to their music. Speaking of which, all three of them are more-than-capable multi-instrumentalists and they wrap all of those lyrics in sound tapestries which have the charm to both befit and betray the words. Which, now that I think about it, is kinda how depression works, speaking from experience here.
Despite that, Women In Music Pt. III is a textbook California album: sunny without being maudlin, melancholy without being melodramatic. Look no further than the opening track, “Los Angeles,” which sounds like the L.A. of our dreams, equal parts Beach Boys and ’70s/’80s SoCal pop. All of this filtered through a modern lens that distills all of their influences into a sound as timeless as its sources.
Which makes it hard to believe that the build-up to this album started in 2019. Has it really been almost a year since the first single, “Summer Girl,” was released? This one belongs in the great pantheon of “summer” songs and represents the moment HAIM made me sit up and take notice. So completely enchanted was I that it became my favorite single of 2019!
Taking the New York groove of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” (don’t worry, he got songwriting credit), Danielle croons words of hope to an ailing lover while Alana and Este drench it with what can only be described as the aural equivalent of a California sunset.
They then followed this up a few months later with “Now I’m In It,” a definite grower which was good enough to keep me interested while I continued grooving to “Summer Girl.” Then they quietly dropped “Hallelujah,” a beautiful and haunting ode to friends as well as to each other, with each sister taking a lead vocal on each verse. (If you haven’t heard this one, you’ll be happy to know this is a HAIM original and not a cover of the over-covered Leonard Cohen song.)
A few months later came “The Steps,” a fantastic rocker with pounding drums, heavenly harmonies, an insistent beat and a riff to die for. A couple months later, they dropped the jittery “I Know Alone,” which sounds like it was written as much for the current time of pandemic and unrest as it is for anyone dealing with crushing loneliness. And then, a few weeks after that, they dropped the outrageously catchy “Don’t Wanna,” which all but dares you to stay still during the insistent beat. (I should also mention the videos for these songs are all well worth your time. If nothing else, as many in the comments sections of each video have noted, these young ladies have made walking around L.A. an art form!)
That’s six, count’ em, six straight fantastic singles from an album that hadn’t even dropped yet! I can count on zero hands the number of times I’ve seen this happen. And yet, all of them fit beautifully into the package that is Women In Music Pt. III. The remaining tracks that make up this album are their own shades of gold, from the jaunty groover of “Los Angeles” to the spine-shattering classic rock stomp of “Up From a Dream,” to the catchy and heartbreaking “I’ve Been Down;” to the quiet rage of “Man from the Magazine,” to the industrial crunch and primal screams of “All That Ever Mattered,” to……you get the idea.
I also hope you get this record. While the word “masterpiece” is used far too often than deserved, this album fully earns that title. The Haim sisters have created music as timeless as it is immediate. Hopefully we’ll be able to listen to this album in the future and forget about the madness of the year in which it was released.
Score: 😎😎😎😎😎 / 5
P.S. On the same day Women in Music Pt III was released, another band dropped its third release: Khruangbin’s Mordechai. I bring this up for three reasons:
1) Mordechai, like Women in Music Pt. III, should be checked out immediately.
2) Mordechai is, in my humble opinion, Khruangbin’s masterpiece and, like HAIM now, I eagerly anticipate future releases from both bands.
3) The father of the three Haim sisters just happens to be named Mordechai. How cool is that?
Al has been spinning records for longer than he’s been walking and has the pictures to prove it. He lives in Arlington, TX with his beautiful and long-suffering wife of 25 years (and counting).