“I know alone and I don’t wanna talk about it”, sings Danielle Haim on the bridge of “I Know Alone”; one of many highlights across the 13 tracks of Women in Music Pt. III. It’s a line that resounds for anyone that knows the kind of depression that Danielle and her sisters Alana and Este spend time processing throughout their third full-length album. It’s a line that feels poignantly un-forced and authentic – one of the great strengths of the band.
But for all their ability to translate those feelings in such relatable words and sounds, this third offering from Haim has so many other notes to play. Make no mistake – Women in Music Pt. III is easily the band’s darkest offering, but the way in which it gets playful and creative in those valleys is what truly sets them apart.
Haim caught my attention with their 2013 debut Days Are Gone, largely for the way in which they seemed to be winking at the camera in the subtlest of ways. The video for my favorite track from that album, “If I Could Change Your Mind”, seems to find the band blatantly leaning into common visual tropes for female-fronted pop music without ever feeling like you’re supposed to laugh at the joke. The same could be said of this current album title.
And maybe laughter isn’t the right response anyway. On the stripped-down “Man from the Magazine”, the band explores the ways in which the industry at large has treated the trio (and assuredly so many other women). “Man from the music shop, I drove too far / For you to hand me that starter guitar”, Danielle sings on the same track that ends its chorus with, “You expect me to deal with it / ‘Til I’m perfectly numb / But you don’t know how it feels”.
Even the booty call intro of “3 AM” feels perfectly douchy, coupled with lines like, “But I’m picking up for the last time”, delivered with an inferred, resigned sigh. The track crackles with R&B influence not felt this robustly since “My Song 5” from the band’s debut.
The creativity in which Haim explore these myriad themes across Women in Music Pt. III is why you could argue it as the band’s best work. The glitchy electronics of “I Know Alone” sound fresh and moody. The sliding guitar work of “FUBT” rightfully comes to the front of the mix, at times covering Danielle’s vocals.
Other tracks like single “The Steps” and “I’ve Been Down” are driven by the jangly, folk-rock guitars that occupy the band’s wheelhouse and feel familiar and inviting in this context. The album meanders sonically from the track to track, just as its lyrics spill across subjects, much like a 45-minute session with your therapist.
It’s the kind of imaginative songwriting that felt missing from Something to Tell You, the band’s long-awaited 2017 sophomore effort. That album showcased the sisters’ uncanny ability to write exceptional songs, but lacked the unique, tongue-in-cheek personality that sets Haim apart from any of their contemporaries. The lack of restraint felt on Women in Music Pt. III is an exciting reminder of what we all felt Haim was capable of upon the release of Days Are Gone.
The fact that such a personal and specific work of art could feel so relatable and intimate to so many, in so many different ways, makes Haim one of the most essential bands of the past decade.
by Kiel Hauck
Kiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.