HAIM’s long-awaited third album, Women in Music Pt. III, is a refreshing and relaxed collection of personal yet pop-perfect songs. Haim sisters Este, Danielle, and Alana have already well established their ability to craft infectious hooks and harmonies, which is not at all disputed on this album. With their returning producers Ariel Rechtshaid and Rostam Batmanglij, they continue to assert their true music-nerdery. They do so by filling this album out with all sorts of instruments—from congas to the trumpet and saxophone to a mandolin and an organ—alongside compelling production touches like distorted screams and electronic backup vocals. The skill of HAIM and their team is that what appears overwhelming or “too much” on paper sounds just right on the album.
The band’s previous album, Something to Tell You, was the aural equivalent of the screw turned one round too tight. It feels unfair to call something “too perfect,” but in a way, Something to Tell You was: all hooks, tightly wound, designed to jump inside your head and bounce around for ages. However, what the album ultimately lacked in was the loose, organic chemistry that the Haim sisters bring to the table with their uniquely tight relationship and musical telepathy. Women in Music Pt. III above all sees the band loosen up and seemingly throw off any shackles of expectation. They experiment freely with different genres, styles, and production, while never feeling forced. The album is their longest, with 16 tracks compared to the 11 of the two previous records, but it never feels long. WIMPII breezes along effortlessly, carried by HAIM’s commitment to every song and feeling.
Another strength of the album is the emotional vulnerability of the sisters. The album is threaded through with songs inspired by Danielle’s specific experience with depression (“I Know Alone,” “I’ve Been Down,” “Now I’m In It”), and bookended by songs that pay homage to their hometown of Los Angeles. Throughout the record is the appreciation for family and for the power that support and seeking help can give you during your darkest times.
The album is carefully calibrated and paced, beginning with “Los Angeles,” a relaxed and unhurried ode to the titular city and their home, supported by a languid saxophone performance from Henry Solomon. This immediately centers HAIM’s focus for this album: home, family, love, support. The simplicity of those themes is continued in their album cover, shot at Canter’s Deli in L.A. at which the band used to perform during their younger years.
HAIM gets back to the mode we recognize from them with “The Steps,” a propulsive pop-rock song about never-ending frustration and miscommunication in a relationship. The next set of songs bounces around in style, but in a wholly delightful way. “I Know Alone” perfectly captures the depth of self-pity that can come with depression, with a distorted vocal that proclaims, “now Sunday comes, and they expect her to shine.” This unexpected electronic touch helps to convey the gut-deep frustration at being unable to shake the loneliness pervasive in the song.
“Up from a Dream” is a simple, abstract song that zigs and zags frenetically. We then move into “Gasoline,” a surprisingly slow, sexy jam that segues perfectly into “3 AM,” a hip-hop infused booty call lament.
“Don’t Wanna” feels like a classic HAIM song, all upbeat chorus, and guitar-centric melody. “Another Try” has a surprising Caribbean bent that keeps it afloat while “Leaning On You” comes from a classic nearly acoustic perspective. The song utilizes the sisters’ voices beautifully alongside a delicate instrumental break that keeps everything delightfully simple.
“Man from the Magazine” is truly the most pared-down song on the album, however. In “I Know Alone,” Danielle references a love for Joni Mitchell, and that musical influence on the sisters is most evident in this song. The song centers the sisters’ voices as they sing about their experience with sexism, specifically in their industry. The music’s sparseness allows their words to be the highlight, as they declare, “you don’t know how it feels, you expect me to deal with it, ’til I’m perfectly numb.” The lack of polished production also mirrors their internal exhaustion with these men in “dark sunglasses.”
While a lot of the album considers how people want and need others—whether for physical reasons as in “Gasoline” or “3 AM” or emotional reasons like “Leaning On You”—we also get “FUBT,” which examines the effect of depending on the wrong person.
The album closes with three tracks that have long been out in the world, but which nevertheless still stand up to repeated listens. “Now I’m In It” is a fast-paced track about that moment you have to recognize that you’re not doing well. Its verses sound surprisingly similar to “I Want You” by Savage Garden, which doesn’t necessarily mean anything except that this song is incredibly ear-wormy. It is also a refreshingly up-tempo illustration of a personal slide into the dark pit that is depression.
“Hallelujah” is the only true ballad on the album, with enough display of vulnerability and emotion to make you cry if you are feeling remotely sensitive while listening. In this song, the album’s themes come together with Danielle calling her sisters “angels in disguise,” and Alana is paying homage to a deceased best friend. This song features strings by Rob Moose (a recent contributor to recent Laura Marling and Phoebe Bridgers albums), with violin and viola performances by Moose, Rostam Batmanglij, and Julian McClanahan. This sole use of classical instruments on the album could seem cloying on a track titled “Hallelujah,” but the genuine vulnerability of the sisters in this song—who all get their own verse—discourages any eye-rolling.
Fortunately, the album does not end on that rather heavy note, but with “Summer Girl.” The first single from the album released so long ago closes the journey of Women in Music Pt. III with a musical hook from saxophonist Solomon. The ease of “Summer Girl” brings us back to the start of “Los Angeles,” back home with HAIM, and leaves us ready to start the album again as soon as possible.