Fashions in pop music can be bewildering things. To date, there has barely been any critic who has covered Days Are Gone, the delightful debut album from all-female American indie pop group Haim (pronounced “Hime”), who has not been full of praise for it. Yet almost every single one has also felt the need to add some kind of disclaimer along the lines of, “Of course, it’s not exactly serious music or anything.” They acknowledge, slightly defensively, that it’s a lightweight, feel-good, old-fashioned kind of record that’s hardly going to blast apart anyone’s notion of What Music Is And What Music Can Be. It’s as though there’s somthing mildly embarrassing about a band who simply want to make pleasant, catchy pop music that listeners will enjoy.
Now, the exact same defensive remarks could well have been made about any number of indie bands from Cloud Control to Tegan and Sara, none of whom are exactly seeking to become the next Godspeed You! Black Emperor. And yet no reviewer has felt the need to stand up and apologise on their behalf. So what is it about Haim that makes people feel they somehow need to justify this genuinely charming and lovely pop band? The simple answer is that where Cloud Control make modestly pleasant music within the firmly post-millenial context of half-heartedly psychedelic folk-pop, Haim make modestly pleasant music that sounds like it belongs in the 1980s, doing the rounds as a warm-up act for Fleetwood Mac. People feel awkward about liking this music not because it is lightweight and unsurprising, but because it would have been lightweight and unsurprising thirty years ago.
Needless to say, all of that will have blown over in a year or two, and when it does there will still be plenty of people deriving joy from Days Are Gone. That’s because Este, Danielle and Alana Haim are a truly talented trio of sisters, and their songs are brimming with sunny, infectious poppiness. If you’ve heard much Triple J these last few months, then you’re probably already familiar with the elegant, haunting shimmer of “Falling,” with its rapid, pattering chorus and its echoing production. You’d also be hard pressed to have escaped “The Wire,” one of those upbeat break-up songs that just seem far too enjoyable for their subject matter. These are both excellent songs. What’s so satisfying is that so much of the rest of the album sounds almost as good. The style is pretty consistent: the only variation from bouncy, percussion-heavy fluff is “My Song 5,” which throws in some heavily distorted bass and sounds jarringly dark. Otherwise, the sonic palette is pretty narrow, but Haim make up for it with the tunes.
Days Are Gone may not be an album that sticks with you much, but it is guaranteed to offer a good forty-five minutes of pleasure. By the time the dreamy “Running if You Call My Name” winds out the album, you’re left feeling happily relaxed – even if you do feel a need to go catch up on the better version by listening to Rumours.