Four years, an opening slot on Taylor Swift's "1989 World Tour" and a Best New Artist Grammy nomination later, L.A.-born and raised sisters Danielle, Este and Alana return with Something to Tell You.
The album opens with the joyous ring of "Want You Back," buoyed by snaps, claps, guitar, piano and the Haim sisters' signature rapid-fire, beat-forming vocals. Before the end of the track, producer Ariel Rechtshaid's handiwork can be heard, as he twists synth runs and layers of manipulated voice parts together.
That sets the tone for the rest of the songs on the record, which for the most part feature a sturdy foundation of everything that makes HAIM songs great — albeit embellished with totally unnecessary sonic flourishes. "Nothing's Wrong" starts off as the perfect homage to Fleetwood Mac, but later descends into an off-putting, futuristic (maybe for the '80s, anyways) breakdown. The robots strike again right off the top of "Little of Your Love" — which, save for the Darth Vader-esque bits in the intro and bridge, is an excellently crafted piece of twangy pop.
The ambitious production tricks aren't a total failure, though; the grand title track manages to work in electronic sounds effectively, weaving together drum machine beats, warbling synths and twinkling keys with a bubbling bass line beneath crystalline three-part vocal harmonies. The synthetic orchestral pop vibes on "Found It in Silence" are equally irresistible, and although "Walking Away" fully embraces an electro-tinged R&B sound that the sisters' voices and slick grooves are well suited to, the track feels out of place leading into "Right Now" — itself gratuitously over-produced, especially compared to a stunning live take that served as the album's first teaser. "Night So Long" then confusingly closes the album, equal parts funeral dirge and angel chorus (if either were recorded in a church made out of aluminum).
Ultimately, Something to Tell You rests uncomfortably between the retro California pop sound HAIM pulled off so perfectly on album number one and experimentation that reaches a little too far into a cartoonish computerized concept of the future. That said, the trio's knack for writing clever, catchy and exciting pop songs remains intact; on a songwriting level, these are every bit as good as those on Day Are Gone. One gets the sense these songs will be at their best live, a safe distance away from the mixing board and in a setting where HAIM's undeniable raw talent really gets to shine. (Columbia)