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Sex, Bono and depression: How Haim embraced chaos and made their most revealing album yet

Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

In a normal world, the sisters of Haim would be looking forward to doing what they love more than anything else.

The Los Angeles trio's new album, "Women in Music Pt. III," is set to come out June 26, after which Danielle, Este and Alana Haim were planning to hit the road as they have for years.

"Touring for me is weirdly like a significant other," said Este, 34, who plays bass in the group that evolved out of a family band the siblings performed in with their parents. It's getting back home that's tough -- the sudden loss of purpose and identity that Este said feels every time like a breakup.

Haim ventures deep into that recurring post-tour malaise on "Women in Music Pt. III," which also closely tracks Danielle's worries regarding her boyfriend's recent bout with cancer. "It was kind of all coming down on me," said the 31-year-old guitarist and drummer.

Yet for all the heaviness of its themes, the resulting collection of "emotional bops," as guitarist Alana, 28, described them, is no downer. Full of juicy grooves, propulsive riffs and Danielle's coolly sensual lead vocals, Haim's third LP seems certain to buoy listeners in this strange season when, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sisters won't even get the chance to experience the high before the low.

"The thought of not being able to play -- it's heartbreaking," Este said in a video conference with Danielle and Alana, each from her own home. (A type 1 diabetic, Este said she's been especially serious about maintaining quarantine -- so much so, she joked, that she'd recently "burned my face doing a DIY face mask.")

 

"I keep looking through old tour videos and old photos like a total psychopath," she added.

Haim's preoccupation with live performance -- with the whatever-happens energy of being onstage -- signals the band's status as a sort of bridge between rock 'n' roll's past and the pop present. Proudly skilled instrumentalists who aren't opposed to employing the modern studio tricks at their disposal, the women are as admired by veterans like Stevie Nicks and U2 as they are by younger stars such as Taylor Swift, who several years ago took the group on the road as an opening act.

Indeed, the buzz around Haim's friendship with Swift -- along with the slick textures of the band's previous album, 2017's "Something to Tell You" -- led to speculation that Haim might itself be due for a Top 40 breakthrough. That never quite happened, though you can hear traces of the sisters' funky rhythms and percussive vocal delivery in music by Swift and Selena Gomez.

On the new record, "it feels to me that they've kind of come back to the alternative world" where Haim started out, said Lisa Worden, who oversees alternative programming for the radio conglomerate iHeartMedia. But even within the alternative space, Haim's earnest devotion to the classic-rock ethos embodied by the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac makes it an outlier: the rare act capable of speaking to millennial women in language comprehensible by aging dads.

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