We just really, really like songs called this.
W.B. Swygart: It takes chutzpah to act like you can just waltz in and take the name of the G.O.A.T. in vain, but dammit… this pulls it off. Mac-by-Ware-by-Phoenix-by-Heart-by-M83, it swings and dips and surges and charges, running on neuroses and emotion and snot and whatever the Californian equivalent of Lucozade is. Let’s invoke those three-and-a-half minutes when Lillix were the champions — the way this picks up its tension and holds it, but keeps finding new things to do, new impulses to chase. They lock into the groove and go dancing. The singer sounds like her leather jacket is at least one size too big. The rhythm is bloody irresistible. The walls are made of crystal. The light is refracting all over the place. I think of all the times major-label indie has let me down over the past 15 years, ‘cos those same old warning bells flash all over the place; then I get thrilled again. Quite apart from anything else, their other single‘s at least as good as this.
Ian Mathers: I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking of the old “Don’t Save Me” (which the old Jukebox loved, and I deeply regret not giving a ); that song could have easily overshadowed this one, and the fact that it didn’t is a triumph on its own. Something about the production choices (clean, spacious, vocals nicely foregrounded) reminds me of, I don’t know, Donkeyboy; the backing vocals and some of the emotional tone remind me of Fleetwood Mac; and yeah, there’s something of Larsen’s finely-tuned craft here. This doesn’t always happen with singles I love, but here I’m eager to hear a whole album.
Anthony Easton: Gorgeous with lonely is my favorite dance music combination — and this glitter ball of ennui, with its refusal of even the possibility of the other, is one of the best recent examples of that instinct.
Edward Okulicz: This has the same name as a great Marit Larsen song, but while worthy of the comparison quality-wise, it’s slightly more in the ballpark of Marit Bergman, if she founded a Bangles-styled group with Ladyhawke. Built on chilly 80s movie soundtrack keyboards and a bassline that is deceptively funky, “Don’t Save Me” has perhaps the year’s best middle-eight and one of my favourite hooks of the year (on the line “if your love isn’t strong”). Rather than belt it out ad nauseam, the Haim sisters tease with it, weaving it through both the verses and the chorus; they sing it as if it’s 4 A.M. and they don’t want to wake the neighbours, but they still want to get their message of defiant impatience with a noncomittal lover understood. “Don’t Save Me” is 80% kiss-off and 20% dance-off, and that suits the song perfectly.
Brad Shoup: Really dug hearing Dash Hutton judiciously dole out the drumkit. The track resists release at every turn, preferring a polished muscularity. Throw in a series of stream-of-consciousness syllabic snaps, and we’re looking at an alt-rock homage to James Brown. When Mark Eitzel says songwriting’s harder now that he’s unlocked the mysteries of youth, I wonder if he means songs that plead for salvation.
Josh Langhoff: “Tameyback, take-take-tameyback to the way that I was before / Hungry for what was to come,” which I keep hearing as “Home before it was too calm.” Same difference. The steady synth bassline is home that wants to be calm, the rest is staccato momentum fighting for hunger (not just in the beat but in the quick words of the melody), little vocal catches and breaths, whispered reiterations of the lyrics (*damn* *time*). Longing to be saved by perpetual hunger — a classic conundrum.
Alex Ostroff: I love moments when singers embrace distinct ways of pronouncing words and phrases that both reflect a song’s emotional content, define the contours of the performance, and stick in my brain. Rihanna’s sudden pivot into patois for “go downtown with a girl like me” in “What’s My Name” is one. There’s another one in the Ke$ha track we’re covering tomorrow. (Spoiler!) “Don’t Save Me” has about ten of them, from the little vocal hiccough on “hold” to the elided “taymebag” in the chorus to the deliberate enunciation of the t in “weight behind”. These tics aren’t merely Marina-esque eccentricities — they’re driven by the push and pull of nostalgia and impatience at the heart of the song. Plus, this somehow manages to push all of my Fleetwood Mac buttons, and exist in the nebulous John Hughes soundtrack zone that Chairlift nailed earlier this year.
Katherine St Asaph: Goddamnit, I thought I was gonna stick Sufjan with “how pleasant.”
Ramzi Awn: Not nearly as annoying as you’d want it to be, in part because all the right influences leave just enough room for something original. The vocals and sparse editing are highlights of a largely innocuous composition, done right.
Will Adams: There’s a thrilling crescendo in the second half of the chorus, when Danielle Haim casts off false heroes as her sisters’ voices wrap around her in solidarity. The rest of “Don’t Save Me” is just as exciting, with Danielle’s rich voice heading the sprightly rhythm track and warm organ tones. It sounds like the California sun, which is just what I’ll need to get me through the winter.
Zach Lyon: The video is as low-budget as any indie video nowadays, but it does what it’s supposed to, and that’s “convince me Haim is a mixture of Warpaint and Spice Girls.” Pop always helps; could a band like Yuck or The Vaccines be rescued from their own boringness by a tiny bit of influence from a producer like Greg Kurstin? With this context, the references to Nicks-era Mac make a bit of sense, though I only hear Lindsay and Christine (at their best, admittedly) in “Don’t Save Me.” Give it 10 points because I can’t stop listening to it, take one off because it only works on headphones under a blanket and that isn’t very nice of them. Take another one off and give it to “Run Run” by Those Dancing Days.
Alfred Soto: It earned its score on beats and vocals alone: ascending and descending across melody lines, stuttering and repeating monosyllables, the Haim sisters mitigate the lonely-highway tropes and an unclimactic fade. L.A. songwriters looking for a band to put their material across, please note.
Jonathan Bradley: The lurking bass and gated drums are just fine; the chorus, with its watery key swells and soft ache is something more. Though the arrangement is pillow soft — as are the harmonies — at the right moments, Danielle Haim’s voice becomes unyielding: “All my life I wasn’t trying to get on a highway,” she enunciates. “I was wondering which way to go.” If anthems of independence can sneak in a winsome “I can’t go on if your love isn’t strong” without compromising their stridency, they deserve to have it both ways.