Sound — 7
Four years since HAIM came running out of the gate with the release of their debut album, "Days Are Gone," and the three sisters haven't slowed down in their ascent as one of the hottest new pop bands of the decade. Some of this may simply be a matter of popularity begetting popularity, like touring with Taylor Swift and being involved in the soundtracks for "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1," and "The Divergent Series: Insurgent," but more than anything, HAIM have been lauded for their daunting conglomeration of a pop sound. With their instrumental backbone taking influence from classic rock, sisters Danielle, Este, and Alana wield their three-part harmonies like a R&B group, and extra production pizzazz diversifies the hybrid style even further.
Taking their time to make the follow-up to the runaway success of their debut album, "Something To Tell You" doesn't retread what HAIM weaved the first time around. Instead of keeping a classic rock foundation running throughout, HAIM lean more on the pop production. Particularly, HAIM throw back to '80s-era pop beats, where songs like "Want You Back," "Nothing's Wrong" and "Ready For You" will make perfect Spotify playlist mates with The 1975 and other millennial music upstarts obsessed with the neon-donned decade, though the feel-good "Found It In Silence" offers a more contemporary pop take, with its staccato bowing string sections taking a page from Coldplay.
Though it may not be as prevalent as in their previous album, HAIM's rock instrumentation isn't wholly abandoned. Along with Este's basslines continuing to be a strong suit, there's still a fair amount of rock highlights, whether it's the country-fried guitar riffs in "Little Of Your Love," the acoustic fingerpicking that runs the soft rocker "You Never Knew," or Danielle's fuzz-smothered guitar solo in "Kept Me Crying."
Perhaps most importantly, HAIM's vocal output continues to be a force to be reckoned with, be it Danielle's sultry lead vocals, or the trio's perky, syllabic hooks in the choruses. However, the production job in "Something To Tell You" messes with this fundamental strength, draping unnecessary effects on the vocals, like the vocoder thrown into "Ready For You" and "Kept Me Crying," and even worse, using downpitched vocal layers in "Want You Back," "Nothing's Wrong," "Little Of Your Love," and the woozy arena rocker "Right Now." Compared with songs on the album that let the vocals bank on their natural richness, like the designated R&B cut of "Walking Away" and the eponymous song, the vocal effects used liberally in the album only hamper HAIM's full potential.
Lyrics — 6
HAIM may have tinkered around with their sound, but their lyrical matter remains the same in "Something To Tell You." Still being very steeped in lovey-dovey subject matter, Danielle continues to write about the emotional vacillation in on-again/off-again relationships, whether it's the romantic leap of faith in "Little Of Your Love" ("You say nothing is ever as good as it seems / Stop running your mouth like that / 'Cause you know I'm gonna give it right back"), the watershed confessional in the eponymous song ("'Cause I got something to tell you, but I don't know why / It's so hard to let you know that we're not seeing eye to eye"), or the wish for reconciliation in "Kept Me Crying" ("If you call me, I'll pick up / No, I shouldn't, but I can't give up on you").
While the trope of holding fast to love runs identical to their previous album, "Something To Tell You" brings a couple of different things to the table as well. In a few cases, Danielle's lyrics show her admitting to be the perpetrator rather than the victim in some failed relationships, heard in "Want You Back" ("We were on one endless road / But I had a wandering heart"), "Nothing's Wrong" ("I was so foolish, I was so blind / Why do we do this to each other, baby? / Heartbreak by design"), and "Ready For You" ("Keep thinking about you / Thinking you almost slipped away / There won't be another day I let you get away"). On the other hand, some songs take the road of leaving those floundering relationships once and for all, heard in "You Never Knew" ("So tired of trying to show you / I worked so hard"), "Found It In Silence" ("But I found it in silence, I finally see / There's no turning back, I know what's good for me"), and "Walking Away" ("Away, I'm not gonna wait / Nothing you could say that'll make me rethink"), and while this adds some moments of empowerment for the heartbroken, it clashes with those aforementioned moments of trying to reconcile.
Overall Impression — 7
With such a strong debut album to come from, "Something To Tell You" doesn't fear to expand upon the already loaded amalgam of HAIM's sonic toolbox, though it does so at its own peril. While the bend towards more of a pop sound doesn't eclipse the rock moments that HAIM first rose to fame with, the album's wide array of styles feel less cohesive this time around, and its extra investment in production value does more harm than good. It's not a bona fide "sophomore slump," but "Something To Tell You" has more flaws than its predecessor, all things considered.