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CD of The Week

Week of 6/29/20

    HAIM - Women In Music Pt. III (Columbia)

    Listening to Haim always conjures the complementary sensations of instantly connecting with new acquaintances and catching up with old friends. Their knowing nods to the pop/rock lexicon combine with their endless, effortless chemistry together to make great albums to sit with, walk around to, or pretty much any other idle activity you're no doubt tired of doing this year." Perhaps sensing our collective COVID restlessness, they have arrived again with Women in Music Pt. III, their most fluid and fulfilling album yet and a suitable soundtrack for this summer's already mounting bummers and boredom.

    Part of the record's appeal is the relatable trauma and uncertainty that threads through the songs. Each sister brought a separate but palpable pain into their sessions. Grief, depression, and health-related stress inform many of the narratives spun here, making these songs not only the sisters' most specific and personal to date but accidentally, a vivid, visceral reflection of what has come to define 2020 for way too many of us. These are songs and lyrics that encourage empathy and emotion in equal measure.

    Unlike other albums that have invited similar responses this year though, Haim convey a coolness with their catharsis, and their trademark charisma combines with an even more kaleidoscopic musical dynamism than before. The opening trifecta of songs alone boomerangs through four decades of music and back. "Los Angeles" details the same kind of love/hate relationship with the titular city that St. Vincent did with her own "Los Ageless" over easy, breezy Vampire Weekend instrumentation. That band's former member Rostam's participation in production no doubt helps with that. "The Steps" continues their sonic kinship with Fleetwood Mac but branches out into Tusk territory, all primitive percussion and post-punk guitars. "I Know Alone", meanwhile, finds them flexing even further, echoing both mid-career Janet Jackson and early 2010s Solange.

    Their exploration only widens from there over subsequent songs, from influences expected (Joni Mitchell-esque agita on "Man From The Magazine") to experimental (opulent OutKast R&B on "3AM"). No two songs sound alike, but the confidence and craftsmanship behind them help them all sound unmistakably Haim. The album does run a little long, particularly if you count all the advance singles that have curiously been relegated to dreaded bonus track status, but frankly, so is 2020 at this point and we're only halfway done. WIMPIII offers a full, winding journey through Haim's heads, hearts, and headphones that will make staying home feel a little more freeing and fun if you let it. Or take a long listen while you walk around an empty park or street. Just make sure you're wearing a mask.

    Review by Rob Huff

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