It’s three for three for the sisters of HAIM as Women in Music Pt. III artfully blends their brand of pop rock together with embellishments of ska and disco.
Few artists have a celebrated, signature walk to their name the way that HAIM does. This goes back to their 2017 single Want You Back, where they coolly strutted down the streets of Los Angeles for a whole four minutes. In 2019, they recreated the routine for Women lead single Summer Girl. More recently, an Instagram post of theirs previewing the songs on the album had them walking, steps synchronised, to the beat of each track.
Like a metaphor for their output, the band is no longer walking the way they were years ago. They’re skipping down the street, removing articles of clothing one by one, involving strangers — all with a notably more carefree disposition than ever before.
It comes as no surprise, then, that Women in Music Pt. III is also the most uninhibited the band as ever sounded. Ska-tinged opener Los Angeles instantly sets the mood: a breezy track about feeling out of place in one’s hometown, laden with the saxophone — the first of more songs to come. Then, it transitions almost seamlessly into the buoyant single The Steps, which sees HAIM front the guitar like never before. And while the album’s title declares its subject matter of female empowerment, this song makes it clear: “And every day I wake up and I make money for myself / And though we share a bed, you know that I don’t need your help”.
Women in Music Pt. III is without a doubt the most experimental territory that HAIM has ventured. Standout tracks Up From a Dream and 3am see the band pull references from different directions. Dream is adorned with the occasional sound effect, a stomping track that would fit right in St. Vincent’s discography. 3am is quite the Frankenstein: part lo-fi, part funk, and even part hip-hop courtesy of the chops and screws that glide through the song. It’s a refreshing change of sound for the band, and a counter against anyone who might ever have thought them to be a one-trick pop-rock pony.
The band has been compared to soft-rock icon Fleetwood Mac ever since their first album, and tracks like Leaning On You and I’ve Been Down truly bring the similarities to the surface. On Down, the band sings: “I think that we need to come together” — a rally cry that couldn’t have come at a better time in modern music. In these stripped back, acoustic moments is where their songwriting comes under the spotlight. Leaning sees them at their most raw: “Was I fearless at seventeen years old / Or was I faking it, I was just a kid leaving home”.
The electric guitar is picked up once again for the standard edition’s album closer FUBT, which builds up to a hard-hitting instrumental outro followed by the criminally underrated single Now I’m in It. It’s a downer that the album’s first three singles were relegated to bonus tracks, and it would have been interesting to see where they would fit on the track list.
Still, HAIM’s risks with this third album have certainly paid off in many ways. Women in Music Pt. III is the band at their most diverse, toying with genres while still managing to retain the roots of their first two albums. Straddling the fine line between pop and rock and still managing to throw in elements from other genres, HAIM is gloriously walking down a road of its own.