Women In Music Pt III is (unsurprisingly) the third album by California rock band Haim, they of the impeccably staged videos and legendary facial expressions. The band have, on their previous two albums, shown that they are capable of blending disparate elements from r’n’b to Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter music, and coming up with a world-class sound that grows outwards exponentially from their Fleetwood Mac influences into a brighter, shinier, more enthralling proposition. Although their first album remains their best to date, Women In Music Pt III offers so much more than you might expect.
That first album, Days Are Gone, is a masterpiece. It was and will forever remain one of the the premier rock and roll albums of the 2010s. The follow-up, Something To Tell You, demonstrated that the band had more to offer, and showcased a maturity you’d never expect from a band on their second album. The band continue this experimental, progressive approach on Women In Music Pt III, and complete the third stage in their artistic evolution. The album was delayed due to coronavirus, which has only served to strengthen its appeal, and coming now as it does when the world is starting to open up again, it seems as though Haim might have known something we didn’t. This is an album about breaking free from isolation, about knocking down barriers both external and internal.
The band (made up of sisters Danielle, Alana, and Este) open the album with the kind of lo-fi hip hop drums you’d expect from a YouTube concentration video, add in some sultry saxophone, a title bearing the name of their home city, Los Angeles, and come up with something they’ve never done before. The track is loose, free, and not even slightly contrived. It comes off like a mid-album track by The 1975, and it completely works. It genuinely appears as though they are trying to to paint with a different palette. This opener, with it disorientating, free spirit vibe, sets up an album of remarkable contrasts, differing shades, and successful tangents.
Dark, almost gloomy synth-pop elements are used to great success in the track I Know Alone, highlighting the raw emotional intensity of the lyrics, while Leaning On You, on with its optimistic, sunny disposition, is the perfect remedy to that track and the broken-hearted angst of tracks like Another Try and I’ve Been Down. Of course, if you were after a classic sounding Haim tune, then you’d need look no further than the the weirdly expressive retro sounds of The Steps. It contains all of the things that the band are known for – from the the old school riffing to the stylish percussion, with some shout-along vocals. The groovy, raunchy 3AM is perfectly counterbalanced with the scathing folk of Man From The Magazines, which completely annihilates the sexist interviewers that the band have had to deal with since they first formed.
The songs released before the album, included as bonus tracks on some editions, now seem to have come from a different universe – one before coronavirus. These songs, the Lou Reed-inspired Summer Girl (released almost a year ago), and the beautifully restrained Now I’m In It (released towards the tail end of of 2019) were released onto an unsuspecting, more innocent world, one that now seems to have been changed irrevocably.
This is an album made by consummate professionals (Paul Thomas Anderson shot the album cover), who have, over the course of the last decade, staked their claims as being one of the the best rock bands in the world. This new album shows that they are capable of not only subverting the expectations of the audience, but subverting expectations of the music world in general. The band has been quoted as saying that they believe they are equal to any of the male rock bands in the world today, and Women In Music Pt III not only demonstrates this claim to be the truth, but it actually proves something else entirely: no other band in the world, male or female, can match Haim when they on their very best form.