The onslaught won’t stop.
With almost every prominent contemporary act either releasing music this year or planning on doing so, fall 2013’s slate of records is incredibly diverse. Albums by HAIM and Justin Timberlake are but small samples.
“Days Are Gone” by HAIM
Just like the neon spandex delusional teen girls wear at school dances for throwback night, HAIM’s music channels the ‘80s but isn’t a spot-on impersonation.
The Haim sisters created much buzz by promoting singles and playing at colossal festivals for the better part of a year. Now their debut album, “Days Are Gone,” proves contemporary acts can acquire inspiration from groups of the past and still be original.
The album begins with a string of songs that have slowly made their way into top-40 rotation—“Falling,” “Forever” and “The Wire.” With choppy, syncopated guitars; hushed lyrics; and organic drum kicks, these three gems complement and build off each other. Played in order, they sound like a smoother, 12-minute “Get Lucky,” Daft Punk’s hit from the summer.
HAIM’s work here resembles late-‘80s pop if it was actually decent.
Yes, interestingly enough, HAIM’s main influences—the malaise work of George Michael, En Vogue, and an over-the-hill Fleetwood Mac—aren’t very good. But by including the strongest aspects from bands their parents must have listened to more than 20 years ago, HAIM’s music has a retro feel without going overboard.
In addition, these tunes still sound like some of the best crossover efforts from recent years. “The Wire” is the strongest rock-laced pop song since Lady Gaga’s “You and I,” with its heartstring-slapping solo and emotive chorus.
“Days are Gone” sputters after three tracks, but the album’s end is composed of other hit-and-miss songs that could’ve been great with small improvements. “My Song Five” comes off sleazier than the party rap of Asher Roth when anger would’ve worked. “Honey & I” would be better with more filthy surf rock sounds and fewer chimes.
Probably 2013’s best new act, HAIM and its first record will linger at the crossroads of indie rock and popular music for years to come—much like The Black Keys and Vampire Weekend. Now comes the hard part: recording a follow-up as accessible and catchy as “Days are Gone.”
Final Rating: Three-and-a-half out of Five Suns
“The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2” by Justin Timberlake
Making love in a manger? Yes, Timberlake goes there.
“The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2,” Timberlake’s second release this year, sounds more like an excess-pumped concert than an album. Recorded during sessions for “The 20/20 Experience” released in March, each song is built around egotism and shallowness the likes of Kanye West, Ke$ha and Miley Cyrus couldn’t muster.
Despite crafting previous hits for the ladies, Timberlake has garnered a diverse fan base, mainly due to emotional depth tracks like “Cry Me a River” and “My Love.” Although Timberlake found crazy amounts of fame, he never lost sight of what feelings leave the greatest impressions on people.
Even the most heartless middle-aged man could listen to the slow, sizzling synths in “Summer Love” and feel his heart droop while wondering how something as great as a sun-kissed relationship could eventually die.
Now it’s all about Timberlake’s ethos: He’s a superstar and a ladies’ man, and that’s why his music is relevant.
Take the second track on “The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2”, the nine-minute “True Blood.” As jilted and ridiculous as the HBO program, this song’s entire basis hovers around the idea that Timberlake is an otherworldly figure. “Cabaret” follows, and with the aforementioned shout-out to Jesus’ birthplace, Drake can’t even save it with a stellar verse.
Timberlake has found one method of success in 2013, and it’s the lone thing that works here: collaborating with Jay-Z. Apart, these icons’ music has been awful. (Have you listened to Jay-Z’s “Magna Carta Holy Grail”? That’s fine, don’t bother.) Together, though, they’ve produced two hits already. “Murder” won’t be different, with the MC’s charismatic rhymes and Timberlake’s ability to build off them.
Timberlake released 2 1/2 hours of music this year; 40 minutes would’ve sufficed. His accolades, celebrity and reputation won’t die with this poor effort, but anyone who remembers what made him appealing a decade ago will wallow in sadness and confusion while listening.
Final Rating: Two out of Five Suns