[10] Haim, ‘Falling’

2013-haim

“We were pretending to be them,” says Junior and she’s right. Look, I’ve got three daughters, I can be a Mr Haim or Mathew Knowles too – the kindly Svengali putting his daughters on the stage, Mrs Worthington, and supplementing his pension. That Junior and her sisters attempt to be Haim with a plastic microphone, plastic keyboard (set to ‘Jingle Bells’) and a plastic guitar (with a dozen pre-programmed riffs) is neither here nor there. You have to start somewhere.

Everyone yaps on about Fleetwood Mac when they talk Haim – possibly subliminally influenced by their vicious ‘Oh Well’ cover – but they’re three Sophie B Hawkinses, aren’t they, peddling catchy pop with a gung-ho rock touch. ‘Falling’ has a dexterous earworm chorus and half a dozen of the 139 “I know”s peppered across Days Are Gone, and the top two Juniors sing as much as they can keep up with. Now, major labels, you know where I am.

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Fleet Foxes, ‘White Winter Hymnal’

Fleet Foxes

Another one that narrowly missed our 2008 chart, finishing around 23. It’s a gorgeous song, but that’s not enough, is it? It needs to be a single – not just a single – and this feels like part of an album. If that doesn’t make any sense, stick it on my list of hang-ups.

So, beards in popular music: do they make better harmonies? I’m thinking later Byrds, Fleetwood Mac (ok, maybe not Stevie and Christine, but who knows what Lindsey Buckingham and John McVie were trying to hide?), The Beach Boys in transcendental mode, erm, ZZ Top? Well, it has the doings of a theory. Fleet Foxes’ debut – an album of the year in all the likely places – is glazed in harmony, and nowhere is the melding of hirsute voice more lovely than on ‘White Winter Hymnal’, with its mercury lyrics (“scarves of red tied ‘round their throats/to keep their little heads/from fallin’ in the snow,” anyone?) and rising/falling chords.

It’s a soft hit with Junior who answers my “Do you like it?”s with “Stop talking, Daddy, I’m trying to listen”. I shut my trap and the album wanders on, with Junior recognising other tracks and pointing out I play them at home. She’s right – it’s been one of my favourites too. I’d like to see these bears perform live but I understand you need to be well over six foot to catch a glimpse of them, sitting down strumming their guitars. I’m not that tall yet.

[5] Texas, ‘Say What You Want’

When Texas first turned up with their worthy Americana it was the guitarist who was eulogised. He was tagged as a new axe hero for the kids, with Johnny Marr now out of the picture. Each record was duller than the last and soon the band fell right off the radar, presumably never to return.

Then, what do you know, they rolled up with this, with the pretty lady front and centre. A very 90s thing to do. The emphasis was off the big chords and onto the pattering groove and Sharleen’s breathy breaths.

Texas set about making the world’s coffee table their very own, but they’re a fondness of mine, with their safe songs and clean sheen. Altered Images veteran Johnny McElhone was now giving them a classic pop sound, an unashamed Fleetwood Mac-ish love of melody and glossy production. This song pilfers from Marvin Gaye and Al Green too, but Ms Spiteri has the chutzpah to carry it off.

Junior jealously guarded her own coffee table and rocked, but gently.