Annot(e)tations is a column by Austin Nguyen that shines a light on the hidden gems of recently released albums or singles that may have flown under your radar. This week, he discusses HAIM’s “Now I’m In It.”
Author’s note to prior readers: Sorry for the delay! I had no intention of taking a (coincidentally) ~spooky~ break, but I couldn’t find time to write for the column last week. “Now I’m In It” itself was released late into the week (Wednesday), and amidst musical rehearsals, Halloween, and choir invitations, there wasn’t much time left to write. But I’m back now, so without further ado, here is HAIM’s “Now I’m In It!”
Besides the 1975 (seriously, where did that 180° turn from the mellifluous, heart-eyes pop of “Somebody Else” to the dissonant, politicized punk rock of “People” come from?), HAIM is perhaps one of the most restless bands around. Their sonic landscape never stops shifting, evolving, and growth always seems to be on the horizon.
Since their debut, the three sisters have amalgamated the classic rock stylings of their debut with explosive synths for their sophomore album, only to traverse through distant universes like PC Music on Charli XCX’s “Warm” while revisiting and modifying familiar ones, adding saxophone to their repertoire on “Summer Girl.”
“Now I’m In It” continues that trend as HAIM tackles a new lyrical narrative: “depression,” the “not leaving the house type of s***.”
Except… you won’t find any signs of stare-at-the-stucco-ceiling, elegiac pedantry here. Instead, the track’s bedroom intimacy is manifested in more subtle forms, its frenetic energy and crowded production the soundtrack of a mind in chaos, while the band polishes “Now I’m In It” with their signature sheen of iridescent and versatile pop.
With punctuating handclaps and alternate-picked guitar, the opening of HAIM’s newest single sounds like a cut from their “Days Are Gone” era, but the throwback doesn’t last long. A drum fill cues in a layer of electronic production to take over, the sonic landscape propelled now by the gurgling arpeggios of technicolor synth bass that could’ve been gleaned from a “Let’s Eat Grandma” track while Danielle (the lead singer) struggles to find peace within it.
“Can’t get a read on myself / Gotta change this situation,” she sings, the breaths between each line sharp, panting, near hyperventilating.
Respite only arrives with a return to form in the pre-chorus; the electronica momentarily suspended, HAIM’s staccato syllables deliver their own sting (“We cannot pretend / Cannot pretend / That it makes sense”), the struggle of trying to swallow reality’s bitterness before the chorus swaggers in with go-down-swinging determination in spite of the vocoded melodies of past desperation from the first verse.
Just when a pattern seems to settle in though, the handclaps and guitar isolated once more, the song becomes colored with the bluesy chords of a piano.
It’s pure and angelic — how the bridge disperses the storm of the verses and shines down a ray of sunlight, how the harmonies align with a shimmering etherality, and how the melismas and resolutions feel like a sigh of relief from the pain of falling physically, mentally, emotionally.
TV commentary and cheering fill in the interlude between the bridge and the last chorus, and there’s an intimacy to the sample of white noise we turn up in the living rooms of our houses to blur the outside world in static, aimlessly staring at two-feet figures on a black mirror in search of something we can only find in its reflection.
Those are the bleakest times — when escapism feels futile, our eyes only seeing what we can make of darkness — but once the world comes back into focus, it makes the stars that much brighter:
“And the rain keeps coming down along the ceiling / And I can hear it / But I can’t feel it.”