When I mentioned yearning for a more subdued, but nonetheless summer-y album in my Phoebe Bridgers review, this is about what I had in mind. While Haim created one of the best summer albums in recent memory with their 2013 debut and a solidly upbeat (if a little overcooked) follow-up, Women In Music Pt. III sees them slowing down and sounding even more comfortable in their own skin. Still, this is the same Haim you’d expect to stuff their songs full of retro-inspired hooks, and there are more than a few songs here that have been dependable earworms ever since the album was released about a month and a half ago.
Honestly, it feels like this album has been out longer than since late June, but maybe that’s just due to the long roll-out of the songs on this album (not to mention the mindfuckery of corona time). I remember when “Summer Girl” was released and became one of my favorite jams of last summer while it’s also managed to stick around for this one due to the long-awaited release of Women In Music. Then there were the other two songs that were released as singles last year that appear here as bonus tracks (“Hallelujah” and “Now I’m In It”), which made me even more confident that album number three from the Haim sisters would be something special. Of course, this was deflated a bit when the album’s release was pushed back two months due to Covid, but singles as great as “The Steps” and “Don’t Wanna” made me more than willing to wait.
So you’d think hearing 6 of the tracks on this album well before its release would’ve dulled my enthusiasm for it, but that wasn’t really the case. Maybe that’s because the non-singles on the album display a more playful side of the band that sees them inhabiting slightly more chill pop music without losing their more indelible instincts. Unlike a lot of pop artists these days, I’ve always thought of Haim as this very self-contained unit, where the three women play all the instruments, write all the songs, and build this great foundation from scratch in an industry where about a million different songwriters and producers are typically brought in to make everything sound just right.
Of course, that isn’t entirely true, since producers Ariel Rechtshaid and Rostam Batmanglij seemed to be integral in both the writing and production of Women In Music Pt. III. Their presence makes the album film feel like a bit of a companion piece to Father of the Bride, Vampire Weekend’s album from last year which Rechtshaid also served as producer on, Danielle Haim guested on throughout, and was the product of Batmanglij’s old bandmates. Also much like that album, this one is teeming with quintessentially millennial feelings about growing older and learning to adapt to more complex adult relationships.
What these few collaborators bring to Women in Music Pt. III provides some surprising production choices (take the piercing screams nestled into “All That Ever Mattered” for example), but at the same time feel like something that was in Haim along. Pop music is practically in their DNA, considering they’ve been creating it since they were youngsters jamming in their parents’ basement. After their second album felt a little out of step with what was going on in modern pop, I was a bit worried Haim might be a flash in the pan, but I’m glad this album proved me wrong. I feel like this has been a recurring theme throughout 2020 in regards to music for me, as the year has been filled with artists I was already a fan of surprising me with albums that were far better than I expected at this point in their careers. This will probably make for a pretty boring Top Ten Albums of 2020 list when that rolls around, but I guess it’s hard to complain about artists I love releasing music I love.