Haim, “Something to Tell You” (Columbia)
Can you sound too perfect? It’s a question that the sunny sisters of Haim — singer-guitarist Danielle, guitarist Alana and bassist Este Haim — must hear a lot. The harmonies on their surprising 2013 debut “Days Are Gone” were so immaculate, as they harked back to the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, that it almost felt too good to be true.
For their follow-up, the Haim sisters have added a bit of an edge, with help from producers/collaborators Ariel Rechtshaid and Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij.
Even in the first single, “Want You Back,” where the harmonies eventually grow into a gleaming tower of stacked vocals rising skyward, Haim looks to shake the classic-rock feel by adding a modern twist, in this case, a bit of R&B phrasing. On “Little of Your Love,” they turn a simple girl-group outing on its head, with wild guitar riffs, echoing production and stray bits of noise. “Ready for You” is structured like ’90s R&B, until the sunny guitar chords and weird vocal-melting bridge kick in.
“You Never Knew” finds Danielle sounding most like Christine McVie on the verses, aided by a synth sound that seems pulled straight from “Tango in the Night,” before they move to a verse that feels like it should be on Carly Rae Jepsen’s last album.
Occasionally, it seems like all the additional instrumentation is simply there to distract from the harmonies, when the song would have been better served by removing the harmonies and letting Danielle (or another Haim) sing it alone, like in the ironically titled “Found It in Silence,” which is overstuffed on every level. But all that inventiveness keeps “Something to Tell You” from sliding into the predictable blandness that eventually comes with consistently pretty harmonies. And it makes Haim an unfettered success.
GLENN GAMBOA, Newsday
TLC, “TLC” (852 Musiq)
So much of the height of history, the depth of sadness, and the weight of expectation is on this girl-group’s first album in 15 years — its promised finale — it’s a wonder TLC showed up for this at all. The lush, quirky harmonies (they loved a good deadpan vocal for effect), their lyrical outlook at the stupidity of beauty and copycat culture, their buoyant blend of sleek R&B and hip-hop — all that made Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes cuttingly crystal clear and unlike other female vocal outfits. Lopes’ death in 2002 silenced TLC until this current fan-driven and -funded return pushed the duo into the limelight.
TLC is good. Hearing Chilli and T-Boz together, doing their odd harmonic thing on tracks such as “Scandalous” is a thrill worth the price of admission. Winding their fierce, forward-moving harmonies through the frank, femme-empowered lyrical aplomb of its past on new songs such as “Perfect Girls” and “Haters” and listening to T-Boz do that flat vocal flip on the aptly titled “Way Back” — complete with ’90s-era synths and a laid-back Snoop Dogg rap — make you yearn for the old slick soul days. But the rest of “TLC” is a tepid time encapsulation with mere twitches of trap to bring the duo into the present. Maybe give it one more shot, ladies?
A.D. AMOROSI, Philadelphia Inquirer
• Neil Young, “Hitchhiker”
• Lucy Rose, “Something’s Changing”
• Silverstein, “Dead Reflection”
• Waxahatchee, “Out in the Storm”