Photo Credit: Jasper Rischen
This past spring the release of Haim’s third full-length album (like just about everything else) was delayed by the 2020 global health crisis. To help fill the void, the group – sisters Este, Danielle and Alana Haim, as we should all know by now – released a number of individual tracks, which amounted essentially to a preview. The songs, including the single “The Steps”, strongly indicated the full product would ultimately be worth the wait. Now, the finally-released Women in Music Part III shows that it was.
As they’ve always been known to, on Women in Music Part III Haim touches upon a wide variety of musical styles, starting with opening cut “Los Angeles”, a jazzy ode to the trio’s hometown. But the group then immediately follows “The Steps” with two synth-based tracks titled “I Know Alone” and “Up From a Dream”, that make the transition appear utterly seamless. Haim expands their already impressive musical vocabulary by utilizing a slow-and-steady quasi-reggae beat on several tracks, which in the case of “Gasoline” ends up creating what’s possibly the album’s best song. They then give this approach another try on “Another Try”, and the results are almost as amazing. The track “3AM” is a song about desperately obsessed ex-lovers who call and leave messages at inappropriate times and it includes several fitting spoken word sections of actors performing the “calls” while the song itself perfectly captures the essence of ’90s R&B.
True to the album’s title, Women in Music Part III also includes subtle but obvious nods to other key female musicians, not just ones who proceeded Haim but at least one who emerged in their wake. The raw acoustic number “Man from a Magazine” takes clear inspiration from the great Joni Mitchell, particularly in regards to the chord structure. Although “I’ve Been Down” is framed by a Rolling Stones-inspired blues-based sound (including a saxophone-centric break right out of the band’s Emotional Rescue–Tattoo You period), the determined and unwavering talk-sing approach used in the vocals will no doubt remind the listener of Haim contemporary Courtney Barnett.
Women in Music Part III skids off the track just shy of the finish line with the final cut “FUBT.” Starting as a grainy acoustic track, synths kick in about two-thirds of the way through making the whole thing come off like a needless attempt to summarize everything that’s been presented up until this point. The song’s title is also an abbreviation for “f*cked up but true,” which also brings us to the curious anomaly of the seemingly over-abundant use of the f-bomb on Women in Music Part III. There may be reason for it in context, but it should also be obvious that Haim is well above swearing to get attention.
The three songs tagged “bonus tracks” were released earlier in the year alongside “The Steps” and are definitely worth another listen, including the Lou Reed tribute “Summer Girl.” The still-striking acoustic “Hallelujah”, is a call for hope in the face of devastation that no one could have imagined would be needed even more so just a few months later. Overall, Women in Music Part III not only comes a lot closer to the quality of Haim’s brilliant 2013 debut album Days are Gone (after their disappointing second release Something to Tell You) but it also shows a genuine musical growth that will have everyone looking forward to what Haim gives us next.