Review: Haim's 'Women in Music Pt. III' is the sunny-sad soundtrack of summer

Patrick Ryan

At this point, it's almost reductive to compare Haim to Fleetwood Mac. 

Ever since they arrived in 2013 with their exhilarating debut album "Days Are Gone," Haim, an  LA-based sister trio, has been touted by critics as the second coming of the seminal '70s band, with their laid-back style and effortless blend of pop, folk and rock. 

It's a badge that Haim has worn with honor and trepidation, admitting they feel "squeamish" being likened to one of the greatest bands of all time, while gamely honoring the group at Fleetwood Mac's MusiCares Person of the Year tribute concert in 2018. (They've even forged an off-stage friendship with Stevie Nicks, who christened Haim her "sisters of the moon."

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Danielle, left, Alana and Este Haim of pop-rock band Haim. The sisters are releasing their third album "Women in Music Pt. III" on Friday.

But if you still think Haim is aping the Fleetwood playbook, then you haven't really been paying attention. In their past two albums – "Days Are Gone" and 2017's "Something to Tell You" – sisters Este, Danielle and Alana Haim have confidently dabbled in other genres: from '50s doo wop ("Little of Your Love") to grimy blues rock ("My Song 5") to TLC-era R&B ("Walking Away"). 

On third album "Women in Music Pt. III" (out now), Haim continues to expand their musical horizons with some of the group's most experimental and achingly personal songs yet. One minute, they're evoking Joni Mitchell (on the acoustic guitar-strumming "Man from the Magazine," a searing rebuke of industry sexism); the next, they're channeling Snoop Dogg by way of Flying Lotus ("3 AM," a woozy kiss-off of booty calls with a throbbing hip-hop beat). 

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Breezy first single "Summer Girl" wears its influences most obviously, with warm saxophone and charming "doot-doot-doos" that directly call to mind Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" (so much so that Reed is credited as a co-writer). As always, there's plenty of the sisters' signature bass licks and guitar shredding, along with less-expected instruments such as congas and accordion. 

"WIMPIII" – or "wimp-yyy," as the Haim sisters have fondly dubbed the record – tackles familiar themes of hometown blues ("Los Angeles") and relationships gone sour ("Don't Wanna"), with a carefree approach to love that's reflected in the album's upbeat melodies and matter-of-fact lyrics. ("If you go left and I go right / Hey, maybe that's just life sometimes," lead vocalist Danielle sings on "The Steps.")

But there's also an inherent sadness that runs through the album, with multiple songs including "Now I'm In It" and "I've Been Down" that address middle sister Danielle's struggle with depression. "Sleeping through the day and I dream the same," she sings on the distorted, synth-laden "I Know Alone." "I don’t wanna give too much / I don’t wanna feel at all."

In the lead-up to "WIMPIII's" release, the Haim family has spoken candidly about the hardships that inspired some of the album's heavier subject matter: work exhaustion, health issues and a close friend's death among them. Through it all, they've been there to comfort and uplift each other, which is poignantly captured on "Hallelujah," an emotional ode to sisterhood in which they gloriously harmonize as a trio. 

"You were there to protect me like a shield," Alana gently sings. "Long hair running with me through the field / Everywhere you’ve been with me all along." 

They may never fully escape the Fleetwood comparisons that have followed them for nearly a decade, and that's OK. To paraphrase one of Fleetwood's greatest hits, time has only made Haim bolder