It’s well known that the only three people who take long walks through the streets of Los Angeles are Haim. The image of the trio striding or line-dancing their way around the city is indelibly linked to their music: cool, confident, full of momentum. The videos to accompany their third album, Women in Music Part III, nod to the strolls of the past and add in a few new twists. In “Now I’m in It,” directed again by Paul Thomas Anderson, bassist Este and guitarist Alana carry Danielle (lead vocals, production, guitar) on a stretcher; when Danielle is revived and joins her sisters for their signature walk, she casts a knowing glance straight to camera. In another video, they’re trailed by a gloomy saxophonist; in another, they stand rooted to the spot. These videos show the evolution of Haim, whose songwriting on WIMPIII is likewise more nuanced, more self-aware, and frequently darker than ever before.
The biting satire of the album’s title is something of a red herring for its explicitly personal content. In interviews, each sister has described a personal trauma that she brought to the studio. Alana has spoken of the grief she suffered when a best friend passed away at age 20, and Este has talked about the low points of living with Type 1 diabetes. Most felt is Danielle’s deep depression; she traces its origin to when her partner (and co-producer) Ariel Rechtshaid was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2015.
Historically, Haim’s lyrics have been conversational and straightforward: emotionally incisive, sure, but usually vague enough that you could easily place yourself inside them. On WIMPIII, though, Danielle writes in vivid scenes, pulling you inside her personal depression fog. She blinks awake and finds herself at the wheel of her car; she watches TV and stares at the ceiling; she goes to the boulevard and can’t stop crying. On the stomping country-rock of “I’ve Been Down,” she sings about taping up the windows of her house, adding sardonically, “But I ain’t dead yet.” Elsewhere, the sisters cut and paste the most offensive interview questions they’ve faced from music journalists (“Do you make the same faces in bed?”) into a candid folk song that channels the spirit of Joni Mitchell.