Does this mean we’re not hype-proof?…
Alfred Soto: I’m a sucker for breathless paranoia, especially when it’s this well syncopated and represents both an advance on a previous single and another reconfiguration of its fascinating parts. Aware of their talent for arrangement, the girls don’t push their modest voices too hard – why would they when they’ve got timbales under that guitar riff like they think a Sheila E.-Robyn collaboration is a smashing idea?
Britt Alderfer: The Haim sisters demonstrate an appreciation for the radio sheen of the great Fleetwood Mac singles, and the guitar work is lean and mean and infectious. You can’t compare them to Stevie, you have to compare them to Lindsey. I feel like I could have a conversation with them about how he’s so underrated as a guitarist mostly because he’s judicious with his notes. Not to make this too much about the Mac though, because these ladies seem wholly comfortable with themselves and this song is glittery, star-making stuff.
Sonya Nicholson: When you see beautiful white women with flowing tresses reconnecting with nature in California’s old-growth forests, you think “The Magic Mountain” and acid-70s bands + their revivalists like MGMT (and cohort — check Boy Crisis’s “The Fountain of Youth“), or maybe, since this isn’t all that trippy, Joni Mitchell. The sound, meanwhile, is technical-virtuoso. The bongos and some of the harmonies sound like Toto’s “Africa”, the bassline sounds like Prince, the vocal flourishes sound like MJ, and the lead singer has a low voice like… actually the only person coming to mind is contemporary artist Jade Alston. Except the singing is wispier, like Kimbra. So what makes this a contemporary song? Maybe it’s the low voice — or the hand claps? Anyway, it is nice to see an all-female band getting props for technical ability, and this is a very pleasant if not particularly memorable song. A solid B for (classicist) influences, a couple points off because I’m a pop music fan and this is a little too unadventurous and BGM for me.
Pete Baran: The Haim sound does seem pretty fully formed from this point, and leans heavily on Tango In The Night-era Fleetwood Mac, which is akin to leaning on some very solid foundations. Problem here is that that also shares a lot of DNA with Knee Deep In The Hoopla-era (Jefferson Airplane) Starship, and you need to neither know the records nor get the allusions to know that sounding like something off an album called Knee Deep In The Hoopla is probably a mistake. There is more than enough great stuff here to maintain their slow rise, but there is definitely a roadmap to obscurity which also contains this route.
Anthony Easton: This sounds like a bunch of white girls trying to combine the studio decadence that marked the late ’70s corruption of the Laurel Canyon with the sound of slightly-too-slick ’90s R&B — two kinds of nostalgia that could work together, but it just seems a little too perfect to justify itself.
Ian Mathers: I still love the songwriting and resiliency in the lyrics, their voices, those whipcrack drum/clap hits for effect, the videos (still trying to figure out exactly why — something to do with rejecting the supposed dichotomy between dancing to your own music and being a “real” band playing “real” instruments?). At first, all “Don’t Save Me” had over this was that its chorus seemed grabbier to me, somehow. After my second listen, I had to revise my opinion. I still feel like I might be underrating them somehow.
Rebecca A. Gowns: I wish I had a sister :(
Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: A funny thing happens about forty seconds into “Falling”, when a bubble-synth suddenly pounces at you from behind the melody and headbutts you into the chorus. It reminds me of nothing less than the time-honoured Lex Luger watermark — that stand-to-attention alert that things are about to go from zero to one-hundred MPH to it’s-too-fast-not-to-fight-someone. And like a Luger beat, Haim’s songs are pieces of instant gratification, locating the listener’s pleasure centres with huge, multi-tracked melodies and just pummeling the shit out of them. “Falling” is the same, another pleasure-centre pummeler that makes good on jumped up 80s blue-eyed soul down to the popping bass and busy-busy percussion. This approach also sounds primed to refine a strain of blog-house rock that the noughties begat, at least judging from its huge MTV Age mix and EQ shifts (you could draw a phylogenetic tree beginning with Midnight Juggernauts’ “Into the Galaxy” and ending with “Falling”). It’s a shame, then, that Danielle Haim’s lyrical content feels blank, all chant-ready accessible blah: “Into the fire feeling higher than the truth! I can feel the heat but I’m not burning!” etc. The jolt of instantaneous glee has a sell-by date, but it’s disappointing when it’s the second you think about the words.
Scott Mildenhall: The discordant noises that accompany the background shouts in the chorus — the ones that sound a bit like a rusty gate closing — really aren’t very helpful. Not off-putting though, because that would imply that there was actually much to be put off in the first place. Haim have a distinguishable style, and that’s great, but they also have a single here that’s practically indistinguishable from their last, with the only difference being that this one is (technical term alert) less songy, all they’re left with is a precocious familiarity and, ergo, a backhanded compliment from a man on the internet.
Brad Shoup: Great use of echo and space. Crisp percussive guitar work, that bummer of a chorus: this is vintage dusky R&B from a time when producers had mastered their craft to the point of madness.
Will Adams: Everything good in “Don’t Save Me” returns for “Falling”: sharply attacked syllables, rapid-fire vocal hooks, and clattering percussion. “Falling” is more subdued, though, with Danielle Haim’s voice hovering in a scratchy mid-range. All the better to heighten the song’s best moments, when her sisters’ voices, as I put it last time, wrap around her in solidarity. With each new single, I’m more intrigued by this trio, hooked into the feeling that I’m hearing something profoundly unique.
Katherine St Asaph: You could arrange almost anything around that chorus, those Ariel Rechtshaid echoes ping-ponging down the mountain, the exact sound of those exact words; that Haim chose to arrange a lovely throwback only helps.