HAIM have never approved of being “put in a box”, as the trio’s eldest sibling, Este Haim, told Apple Music in 2020. “We don’t care about genre or sticking to any sort of script,” middle sister Danielle confirmed. “We have the most fun when nothing is off limits.” The LA-born trio—completed by youngest sister Alana—officially formed in 2007 (prior to that, they performed across LA together as the covers band Rockenhaim, joined by their music-loving parents), but it wasn’t until 2012 that they saw their band as a viable career choice. That year brought the release of debut EP Forever, which showcased that box-evading sound: a meeting of the ’70s and ’80s music they grew up with alongside pop, R&B and hip-hop. By 2013, HAIM had earned the top spot on the prestigious BBC Sound Of list and released a critically acclaimed debut album, Days Are Gone.
Its follow-up, 2017’s slick Something to Tell You, saw the sisters revisit the breezy pop and rock melodies of their debut and lace them with more emotional depth. If a sprawling global tour provided further proof of HAIM’s prowess (thanks to live shows taking the polished sound of their first two albums to raw new places), it was also a time during which Este, Danielle and Alana were heading towards a collective downward spiral. Between them, they were dealing with depression, heartbreak, grief and health issues (Este has type 1 diabetes).
With 2019’s Lou Reed-indebted “Summer Girl”—a show of support to Danielle’s partner and HAIM producer Ariel Rechtshaid as he battled cancer—the sisters began to process that rock bottom in public. Its follow-ups, “Now I’m in It” and “Hallelujah”, further hinted at the vulnerability to come on the band’s third record, 2020’s Women in Music Pt. III. “A big theme on this album is recognising your sadness and expelling it with a lot of aggression,” Danielle told Apple Music upon its release. “It feels good to scream it in song form.” Meditations on the misogyny they have faced as female musicians only bolstered the power of the album, which was nominated for an Album of the Year Grammy in 2020. But despite those sometimes heavy subjects, Women in Music Pt. III is also HAIM at their most playful—and accomplished. “We wanted it to sound fun,” added Danielle. “Everything about the album was just spontaneous and about not taking ourselves too seriously.”