At first glance, it appeared that the indie rock group HAIM experienced instantaneous success upon the release of its debut album, Days Are Gone. The widespread popularity of the 2013 album — both in soft-rock circles and mainstream audiences — led to the band opening for Taylor Swift and Florence and the Machine, a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, and a Saturday Night Live performance. But in reality, the battle for musical recognition was a long and hard-won fight. “What’s really funny about this ‘overnight success’ is that we’ve been playing together for over 15 years,” lead singer Danielle Haim told The Telegraph. “There was nothing going on for us. We were bottom of the bill at 50-capacity venues, and no one would show up.”
The band members’ musical efforts go back even further than the past 15 years. Made up of three sisters, Danielle, Este, and Alana, HAIM has performed and composed songs together since they were children. Encouraged by their parents to pursue music as a creative outlet, the siblings played in a family band called Rockenhaim, performing covers at charity events and local delis. Now, with decades of musical partnership under their belts and a kinship that, literally, runs through their veins, HAIM is making their most harmonious, engaging music yet, with Something to Tell You.
Lyrically, the songs tell the same story from three different points of view — a nod to the individual voices of each band member. But in terms of the album’s overall cohesiveness, Danielle, Alana, and Este operate as a seamlessly integrated unit. In more free-form, exhilarating songs, like “Ready For You” or “Walking Away,” upbeat drums give grounded structure to Danielle’s breathy voice. With R&B-inspired track “Kept Me Crying,” a mellow guitar blends easily into the sisters’ vocals. Reshaping rock music to suit their modern, dulcet sound, HAIM rises above the sum of its individual parts as an innovative musical team.
At 8 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 7, at the Fox Theater. $38.50 – $333; foxtheateroakland.net
“That celebrity, super-cool sexy band guy secrecy world — it’s all fucking horseshit. I want to demystify that a little bit,” Mac DeMarco says in an interview with Noisey. Not one to preoccupy himself with the celebrity “horseshit,” the Canadian psychedelic-rock artist prefers to keep his lifestyle subdued and down-to-earth. Despite the critical acclaim of his third studio album, This Old Dog, and his current tour across America and the U.K., DeMarco still travels in his own van, proclaiming that tour buses are a waste of money. He also seeks to form meaningful connections with his fans, once going so far as to give out his (now former) house address in a song.
The laid-back modesty DeMarco exhibits in his personal life can be heard in his music as well: Mild vocals and glassy, chime-like instrumentals make each song sound like a sprightly dream. Possessing the humble demeanor of an average Joe, DeMarco explores issues of human existence with a levity that makes him unpretentious and accessible.
But on This Old Dog, DeMarco uncovered the emotionally sensitive side beneath his cool exterior. On the track “Dreams From Yesterday,” the artist muses on the fleeting nature of youth, saying “No amount of tears / Could bring back all the years / Bring back all your dreams from yesterday.” And in “Watching Him Fade Away,” DeMarco reacts to his father’s struggle with cancer, and his conflicting feelings about saying goodbye to an absent parent who spent his son’s childhood abusing alcohol and drugs.
When asked about the deeper content on his latest album, DeMarco told Paper, “I think this year I realized that I have a lot more to think about than drinking PBRs and sitting in the van all day. I guess I’m growing up a little bit.” The casual vocal performances, combined with the poignant lyrics of This Old Dog, portray the outlook that DeMarco lives by, and the personal memories that have influenced him along the way.
With Homeshake, at 8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 8, at the Greek Theatre. $39.50; thegreekberkeley.com
At the end of 2015, cousins Jonathan Capeci and Joey Beretta had just dissolved their former band, Dinner And A Suit, when they decided to rent a small space in Los Angeles and compose songs indefinitely. With no goals of writing a chart-topping hit or signing onto a label, the duo inadvertently did both after recording “XO,” a dark pop tune about an unfulfilling relationship. Following millions of “XO” streams on Spotify and the band’s deal with Interscope Records, Capeci and Beretta released the four track EP Honest last October, and thus, Nightly was born.
Honest is an aptly named EP, given that the lyrics of each song read like a private diary entry, sharing tender romantic confessions with abandon. “XO” describes a state of love purgatory, where Capeci is caught between leaving his lover, or staying with her at the expense of his own sanity. “No Vacancy” narrates from the perspective of the heartbreaking partner. Capeci earnestly sings, “Nothing is easy, baby / I wish I could let you in / But inside of me / There’s a sign that reads, ‘no vacancy.’ ” Nightly, whose name derives from the phrase, “Night, love you,” writes songs about the intimacy that underlies even doomed relationships, the ecstasy and disappointment that comes with committing to another person.
Long-term, Nightly’s only hope is to make songs that leave a resounding impact with listeners. Speaking to Atwood Magazine, Capece emphasizes music’s impact on specific memories, such as driving to the beach as a teenager: “That drive, at like 8 p.m. on a Friday night, when the sun’s set, near dark, and the windows down and you can smell the salt air. We would just vibe out to music, whatever it was. If I could be the music that kids vibe out to … that’s what I picture, and what we try and write.” Trying to pay forward the gift of memorable music, Nightly creates vibrant and sentimental pop for the soundtrack of youth.
At 8 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 7, at Rickshaw Stop. $12 – $15; rickshawstop.com