Looking Back

HAIM: The sisters’ impressive debut a decade on

It’s been 10 years since siblings Este, Danielle and Alana Haim released Days Are Gone – but how does it stand up in 2023?

Arriving at a time (pre-Wet Leg) when emerging all-woman bands were still playing second fiddle to their male counterparts, HAIM’s 2013 debut, Days Are Gone, came like a breath of fresh air. Sure, similar bands such as Warpaint, were (and still are) very much revered amongst certain crowds around that time, but they weren’t mainstream enough topple artists like Justin Timberlake off the album charts. Frankly, it just didn’t feel like there was much taste commercially for woman-led rock music.

And then, along came HAIM.

Like anything in the music industry, there had been rumours. Not only were the Haim sisters accomplished musicians in their own right (both Danielle and Este were briefly part of the pop group Valli Girls in 2005, and Danielle had also toured with Julian Casablancas as a session guitarist), but they had an edge. There had been an appearance at SXSW, and people who had seen them live knew they liked to cover ‘Oh Well’ by Fleetwood Mac, and they covered it well. It was no surprise, then, that 2013’s debut, Days Are Gone, was received enthusiastically by those who really wanted to see what these sisters were about, and whether their go-hard-or-go-home rock sound translated well once recorded.

Laid down in between a hectic touring schedule supporting Mumford & Sons and Florence + The Machine (the sisters also managed to slay an early afternoon slot at Glasto’s Pyramid Stage in the summer of 2013, with bassist Este winning over the crowd by declaring: “this is the best moment of my life”), Days Are Gone was already set to feature three outrageously catching singles –‘Don’t Save Me’, ‘Falling’ and ‘The Wire’ – but could the album live up to the hype?

The short answer, is yes.

Slicker and certainly more polished than their scuzzy live snarl, Days Are Gone opens with ‘Falling’, the gasping “Ahs”, layered vocals and punchy bass giving way to a wind-machine style Pat Benatar-style chorus that races along like all the very best car karaoke tunes. Warning: the summery “never look back, never give up” at the end of the track is the most addictive earworm. Proceed with caution.

HAIM - Falling (Official Video)

Moving breathlessly into ‘Forever’, HAIM’s debut single, the album doesn’t lose any momentum. Boasting an anthemic middle section, it’s clear how ‘Forever’ was voted one of the year’s best singles by music critics globally. This was the song that started a slew of comparisons, from Stevie Nicks to Madonna. HAIM’s fresh and effervescent sound had an air of confidence about it.

‘The Wire’, with its synthy stompiness, still sounds joyous. The ballad ‘Honey & I’ gives off a sweet folk air, while hitting at the other end of the spectrum, ‘My Song 5’ delivers straight Suzie Quatro-meets-Joan Jett glam sleaze with that distorted “honey I’m not your honey pie” calling out the clichéd romance of its sister track.

HAIM - If I Could Change Your Mind (Official Video)

Arguably though, it’s the trio of ‘If I Could Change Your Mind’, ‘Don’t Save Me’ and ‘Days Are Gone’ that hit all the epic sweet spots. Yet, despite their bubblegum breezy sound, this trilogy is still laced with sadness. Underneath the handclaps and woven melodies is the memory of lost love, moving on, and the dappled light of summer passing way too fast. The “felt like I was walking on a tightrope/ sometimes I wish I didn’t miss you all” from title track ‘Days Are Gone’, and its subsequent vocal bridges and loops is simply euphoric. Only the very best sad songs can make you this happy (and want to dance this hard).

Bravo HAIM. Looking back it’s amazing to think this was just the start of it all. And while some of the naysayers slapped Days Are Gone with the ‘overproduced’ tag, when a band is this good live too, surely it’s cool to have the best of both? 

HAIM play All Points East in London’s Victoria Park on August 28. Find tickets here.