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Haim Bottle L.A. Lightning on the Provocative ‘Women in Music Pt. III’

The ladies of the Valley meet ‘Ladies of the Canyon’ on their strongest, wisest album yet

Reto Schmid*

Haim’s third album, the cheekily titled Women in Music Pt. III, begins like an uncapped fire hydrant spraying water on a scorching summer day. A sax solo from Henry Solomon leads into Danielle Haim begging for a miracle from their hometown on album opener “Los Angeles.” While they love L.A., it’s bringing them down and they’re mulling what to make of their disappointment and disillusionment.

“Hometown of mine/Just got back from the boulevard can’t stop crying,” she sings on the first verse. “The guy at the corner shop gave me a line and a smile/I know he was trying/But a lie is a lie.”

“Los Angeles,” like all the best moments on WIMPIII (out June 26), is packed from line to line with vivid scenes and razor sharp emotional precision. The album is an immediate gem in their still-expanding catalog; it’s a resonant reflection on pain, depression, love and home that forsakes some of their big, drum-heavy pop leanings for a smoother, more inward experience.

Made in partnership with frequent collaborators Ariel Rechtshaid and Rostam Batmanglij, Haim’s latest feels like a fresh and tender ode to Seventies FM pop and rock, with the sisters giving nods to Laurel Canyon’s greatest hits along the way. Of those references, Joni Mitchell pops up the most: she’s referenced explicitly on the most synth-heavy track “I Know Alone” (“Screaming every word of ‘Both Sides Now’”) and implicitly on album highlight “Man from the Magazine,” a folky reflection on sexist interview questions that simmers with that familiar, Mitchellian armored softness.

The moments when Haim swerve from the guitar-forward FM pop that shape the majority of the record, however, are even more satisfying. “I Know Alone” moves like a moody, dark electro pop could-be-hit in its exploration of almost impenetrable loneliness while “3am” is a “Redbone”-inspired R&B trip about a better-forgotten booty call. “Don’t Wanna” feels like classic Haim, drum-driven with their chorus harmonies placed on a pedestal.

The album ends as it began, with Los Angeles on Danielle’s mind but New York at her fingertips with references to Lou Reed “Walk on the Wild Side” on closer “Summer Girl.” Solomon’s saxophone gives a beatnik, free jazz edge as she describes herself as both “lightning in your eyes” and “relief.” And what a relief these ladies of the Valley are on their most provocative album yet: they may just save summer yet.