I’d been hearing about this band Haim for a few weeks now; they kept getting written about in music blogs I skim and Rolling Stone/SPIN/other music publications. I never bothered to give them a listen, and for no real reason either. I think I’m getting to the point in my life as a consumer of music that I’m perfectly happy listening to music I already have, new music put out by artists I love, or discovering old classics (latest old discovery, Duke Ellington’s take on Tchaikovsky in his 1960 release, The Nutcracker Suite). I think I can safely assume that while I’m sure loads of good, new music is being made, there is too much to try to digest and if it’s super, super good I’ll eventually stumble onto it. I feel zero pressure to be on the cutting edge of new music anymore; I’ve got no fire in me to be the one telling people about the hot new band. I’d rather be able to discuss in length why I like Michael McDonald over Tom Johnston as The Doobie Brothers frontman.
This leads me back to Haim. I watched the Josh Hutcherson-hosted episode of Saturday Night Live a couple weeks back, and Haim was the musical guest. I figured this was the perfect time for me to be introduced to them and I didn’t fast-forward either musical performance (which I do often, looking at you Lady Gaga and R. Kelly dry humping on stage). Haim played “The Wire” and “Don’t Save Me” and both songs were like a bomb with a very long fuse. It wasn’t until like a full two minutes after each song ended and I was well into the following commercial breaks that I realized how much I loved them.
Haim consists of three sisters from California, and while I traditionally don’t freak out over all-female groups, they had this insanely magnetic presence on stage. The bassist absolutely killed it, and while her “bass face” kind of freaked me out, she had this raw intensity that just mesmerized me. After the episode was over I rewatched both performances, and have subsequently watched them multiple times since.
Now the performances are great, and I suggest you find them and watch them. But the music itself, holy cow. I do not, in any way, proclaim to be a fan of ’80s music. It is easily my least favorite decade of music in the last 70 years. But these women have created music that could’ve been plucked directly from She’s So Unusual and I am in love with it. “The Wire” and “Don’t Save Me” both have this very awesome blend of synth-driven rock and beautiful pop-driven chord progressions that sucker-punch my ears. They’ve also got this incredibly catchy, unique cadence to certain lyrical lines, strongly evidenced in “Don’t Save Me.” But then take a listen to “Go Slow” and that cadence is used with such subtlety, and it’s layered on top of this gorgeous ethereal guitar riff. I would strongly recommend listening.
The rest of their album, Days Are Gone, is a weirdly awesome mix of ’80s pop/rock and current sounds. I’ve gotten through it about five times, with the majority of my listens going through those two stand out tracks. But I’m finding that I can really get into ’80s music, if it is ’80s music released through the prism of current pop/rock. Days Are Gone is a perfect example of this, and Arcade Fire’s Reflektor is another. The title track of that album sounds like a weird permutation of a B-side from Bowie’s Let’s Dance. And it absolutely slays me, it rocks so hard. ’80s music can get me when it’s filtered through a 20+ year musical lens.
So a big thanks to Haim for making me realize there is still new music being made by new artists that is worth checking out. I still probably won’t be actively listening to each hot new band that Pitchfork mentions, but I don’t want to write myself off as a 50 year old music listener quite yet. There’s always something new to discover.