A lot has been said of how LA band-of-sisters HAIM have sleeves adorned with their influences since their first single, ‘Forever’, surfaced at the beginning of 2012. ‘Don’t Save Me’, ‘Falling’ and ‘Forever’ all bore a broad streak of 70’s harmony-laden rock music and the synth of 80’s pop but it was easy to shrug off the sense of derivativeness because, as was cemented by recently released ‘The Wire’, their music proves too entertaining for it to matter. Now that their debut has landed amid a whirl of publicity thanks to their hectic touring over the past 18 months it’s a question of whether or not their knowingly referential style will prove more imitative than innovative. The answer is a bit of both but when music is this much fun it ceases to matter if there’s a Fleetwood Mac-esque vocal harmony here or a Blondie guitar lick there.
The pre-released singles make up the brunt of the first half of the album. Even though they have all had their day on popular radio over the past year, they are no less infectious than when they first aired: ‘Don’t Save Me’ and album opener ‘Falling’ will never lose the glossy strut that had fans fall in love with the band initially, and their mass appeal is in no way a sign of vapidity; they have crafted two of the year’s best pop songs.
The new tracks, particularly those midway through the album, are of a different ilk to their predecessors. Seguing effortlessly into a more R&B sound half way through the album, the title track hints at a more varied set of influences than was readily apparent from the pre-released singles. Jessie Ware takes co-writing credit for the track alongside Kid Harpoon (Tom Hull) and youngest sister Allana takes over vocal lead from eldest sister Este, displaying no shortage of confidence when solo behind the mic. Following in that vein but grittier ‘My Song 5’ is a complete shake-up when it growls to life: dark, tribal stomps and handclaps lead the way through this feisty declaration of independence lending a darker slant on the glossy R&B it’s inspired by. It is well worth noting that, for a change, the unreleased tracks stand shoulders above the tasters in terms of variety of style.
Days Are Gone won’t revolutionise contemporary music but little can contend to that crown. The powerful combination of shared tastes and influences run rampant over each track but when the end result feels so gladly lodged in your mind from first listen then they have nailed what it takes to deliver a solid debut that will hopefully provide a stepping stone towards finding their individual voice. Original? Not by a long shot. Essential? Most definitely.