The Sunday Magazine: The Girlfriend Experience

There is so much good television across so many platforms it is hard to keep up with it. It sometimes like television series are becoming as numerous as new perfume releases. What often happens is when a few are dropped all at the same time one or two get forgotten about. Which is where my readers come in. Outside of perfume correspondence the highest number of reactions I receive are on my writing in this column on my television habit. I think it is an outgrowth of what we used to call water-cooler television where we would talk about an episode with our co-workers in front of the water dispenser. Now via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram we don’t have to wait for the next day we can watch and then go look for reactions elsewhere. The latest recommendation I received was on my review of the new book “Fly Me” by author Daniel Riley. I praised it for melding multiple styles into a compelling story. Which led a reader to send me an e-mail asking if I had watched the Starz series The Girlfriend Experience. I have now.

Riley Keough as Christine Reade

I was interested because of Executive Producer Steven Soderbergh. Mr. Soderbergh’s introduction to the world was his 1989 movie “sex, lies, and videotape”. That movie explored the closely intertwined nature of psychosis and sexuality. It was unique in its unflinching ability to allow the camera not to blink when things got uncomfortable. Mr. Soderbergh has gone to have a varied career with occasional forays back into this topic. One of those was an experimental film 2009 called The Girlfriend Experience. Using the hand-held faux-documentary style of filmmaking he follows a high-priced escort who offers her clients “the girlfriend experience” (GFE) where she provides companionship for days along with sex. This all takes place in the days leading up to the 2008 US Presidential election. It was a fascinating psychosexual context mixed with politics. If there was a consistent criticism it was that it felt like two different movies at the same time.

Steven Soderbergh

If Mr. Soderbergh was desiring to make a multi-layered story using differing styles the big screen was probably not the best place for it. The current television world was. In April of 2016 The Girlfriend Experience premiered. This story follows the life of a young law school graduate, Christine Reade, as she begins her internship at a prestigious Chicago law firm. One night she meets her classmate Avery and finds out she is making a living by providing the GFE through an escort agency. Christine tags along and eventually begins her career in the GFE business. Like the earlier Soderburgh movie this television version also melds many different storylines all tenuously connected; especially early on. There is the story of a sex worker keeping her profession private. There is a corporate espionage story. There is a psychotic stalker story. There is a twisted story about family. Finally, each of the sexual encounters play like little vignettes all on their own. Each are done where the camera is unrelenting with its view of it. They all eventually coalesce into a final payoff.

The Girlfriend Experience thrives because of actress Riley Keough who manages to navigate the potential acting pitfalls of a narrative as dense is this with aplomb. Much of the work she is asked to do is done without dialogue as her facial expressions and her eyes do more storytelling than anything passing her lips. This is her first large role and it is a fantastic performance which I hope is a springboard to other things.

Her performance is particularly remarkable over the final two episodes where Christine returns home for her parent’s 30th anniversary party. Which leads to the final episode where we learn where all of this leaves her with a final scene that indicates it all might have been for nothing.

If you are looking for something to binge The Girlfriend Experience is very worthy of a few hours of your time.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: It Will Never Last

If you grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s you probably heard a familiar dismissal of this new-fangled rock and roll music, “It will never last.” That would be further supported that there were no Sinatras, Comos, Crosby, etc. doing that crazy music. Of course, it was frustrating to know that the only proof that they were wrong was living long enough to see the truth of it all. I have been in a reflective mood because I have been reminded that thirty years ago there were a trio of albums which in many ways defined the ways this rock and roll music was going to diversify; they are also among the greatest albums of all-time. I am talking about “The Joshua Tree” by U2, “Sign O’ The Times” by Prince, and “YO! Bum Rush the Show” by Public Enemy.

“The Joshua Tree” was the album which was the slingshot to superstardom for the Irish quartet of Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr. Their success had been consistently rising but they carried the sometimes-dismissive label of “experimental” especially since the previous album, The Unforgettable Fire was all over the place musically. What often gets forgotten is experimentation leads to discovery and during the process of recording “The Unforgettable Fire” U2 discovered the foundation of their music going forward. Combining with the same production team of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois; “The Joshua Tree” would be the glorious result of that process. The opening track “Where the Streets Have No Name” still rings true three decades hence. “With or Without You” is a song of disaffection but it is the way the guitars and drums diminish at the end which seals the emotion of the lyrics.

All throughout the 80’s the idea of rock and roll was being redefined. Prince was an artist who fused crunching guitar onto a funky foundation matched with his distinct vocals to produce his own corner of the genre. “Sign O’ The Times” is the greatest example of this and I consider it Prince’s best album. Prince has been compared to Jimi Hendrix as a guitarist and most of that has to do with the easy comparison of race. It downplays that he is as elite a lead guitarist as anyone who has ever picked up the instrument. “Sign O’The Times” is the dissertation where he lays it out there to be seen. A double album, many of the tracks carry elongated guitar solos to match with the lyrics and the drum machine laden funk underneath it all. The title track which leads it off is one of the greatest displays of every facet of talent Prince contained. “U Got the Look” where he would duet with Sheena Easton was a giant hit because all of this was distilled into a set of matching vocals trading jabs.

1987 also saw the beginning of what has become one of the most dominant music genres of today; hip-hop. Spending a lot of time in New York City during this time I saw the building blocks of the East Coast version which would assemble into the debut album of one of the seminal hip-hop bands Public Enemy, “YO! Bum Rush the Show”.  Public Enemy was fronted by Chuck D, Flavor Flav, and backed by DJ Terminator X. Up until this point hip-hop was all about talking about yourself. Public Enemy would be one of the first to take on what it meant to be black in America. Terminator X used the technique of scratching to lay down unsettling sonic foundations for Chuck D and Flavor Flav to build upon. Those words are what become the percussion and the message. This was not safe it was troubling because these were authentic voices from a portion of society being allowed the chance to express it to a larger audience. This was the year where hip-hop stole into the spotlight; Public Enemy was not going to let it go out which is why it is now so popular.

As my birthday gets closer I begin to realize how much I’ve experienced. Looking back thirty years ago shows rock and roll has lasted. Not that anyone who told me it wouldn’t is around for me to tell them so.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Characters Who Live on TV

I have spent the last couple days looking over the preliminary schedule for the upcoming New York Comic-Con. It is part of the fun of going is to look over the upcoming panels and screenings and see which ones I’m most excited about. It becomes a way of my assessing the things I have at the top of my list against some things which have fallen.

In the latter category is the panel for the new Star Trek: Discovery. I looked at it on the list and was surprised I have little interest in it. Star Trek is why I am a 57-year old man on my way to Comic-Con but they have found a way to fatigue my interest. If I hear good things I suppose I’ll catch up but for the very first time I won’t be there for the first episode of something which has Star Trek in the name.

There are many other things I am looking forward to but right at the very top is the American Gods panel on Thursday and The Walking Dead panel on Saturday. Funnily enough the reason I am so fond of both series are characters who are very different from the printed page version.

Pablo Schreiber and Emily Browning in American Gods

In the Starz American Gods series, it is the duo of the leprechaun Mad Sweeney and Laura Moon. As portrayed by actors Pablo Schreiber and Emily Browning they are the reason I tuned in each week. What is crazy is in the book the characters exist but are small supporting characters. On TV, they are the best thing in American Gods.

Melissa McBride and Norman Reedus in The Walking Dead

In The Walking Dead, it is the characters Darryl Dixon and Carol Peletier portrayed by actors Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride. They also form a rough duo within the zombie apocalypse although the story separates them often. Darryl doesn’t exist in the comic book and Carol died a long time ago. On TV, they form the beating heart of the show. Despite many storytelling excesses these characters bring me back week after week.

Darryl and Carol are so popular that when writer Robert Kirkman talks about killing either of them you can almost feel the held breath in the room. I have been considering what it is that makes both characters so important to my enjoyment of this show. I think it is the uncertainty they bring as they don’t exist in the comic which means I have no idea what happens to them. It makes me invest more closely because of that. The other characters are great but because of the comic I know who is eventually going to die which maybe makes me keep them at arm’s length emotionally.

When it comes to Mad Sweeney and Laura it is much easier to pinpoint the reason; the actors. On American Gods, these two actors have created a chemistry which does not exist on the page. These characters were never as alive until Mr. Schreiber and Ms. Browning breathed new life into them. This presents a problem for the writers for season two as I am far from the only one who feels this way. How they will find ways to use the two characters when there is precious little left on the page for them to do is going to be key to a successful run.

I am looking forward to these actors talking about their roles and answering questions in a few weeks. Seeing and hearing from them is the reason I want to be in NYC the first week of October.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Twin Peaks: The Return

Sixteen weeks ago on the eve of the premiere of Twin Peaks: The Return in this column I said “it’s been twenty-five years; tell me a story”. Well after the 18-hours of this I have been told a story that has been more than I could’ve expected. I have been given so much story, along with spectacular visuals, I suspect it will take another twenty-five years for me to digest it all.

Back in 1990 when Twin Peaks premiered on ABC it was so unexpected for a broadcast network to show something like that. In 2017, with the niche television landscape Showtime could commit to 18-hours. This allowed creators David Lynch and Mark Frost to fully realize their visions. Mr. Lynch would direct every episode. It resulted in one of the greatest collection of a particular visualist’s aesthetic since Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “Berlin Alexanderplatz”. For a director to be given the opportunity to make an extended version of a movie over a number of segments must be a gift. Mr. Lynch took this largesse and displayed everything I admire about him. If you’ve been a long-time viewer of Mr. Lynch’s style every bit of it was here to one degree or another.

Michael Cera as Wally Brando

There were long pauses between dialogue verging on and passing uncomfortable. Commentary on how we are so used to word salad when it comes in haute cuisine we’re not sure what to do with it. There were moments of sweaty palmed tension released in a horrific climax. To the point that other moments ratcheted up tension that didn’t get released. The sound editing also done by Mr. Lynch carried by crackling electricity throughout was all about the energy running through the story. There were moments of wry commentary on our current way of life epitomized by Michael Cera who plays the son of Deputy Andy and Receptionist Lucy; Wally Brando. Mr. Cera gives a comedic performance where he channels the cadence of Marlon Brando as he comes to pay respect to his godfather, the local sheriff, in the dialogue of Luca Brazzi. It is four minutes of writing and performance gold.

The Three Faces of Kyle MacLachlan in Twin Peaks: The Return

Another component of all of this is the David Lynch Repertory Company was represented throughout. Many of the actors he has worked with in his movies joined original cast members. There are so many good acting performances I am only going to focus on one; that of Kyle MacLachlan. Mr. MacLachlan had to be the glue that held all of this together as he played three versions of characters who looked like him. He gave each of them distinct personality so just the way he delivered the line you could tell which character it was. Through his performance Mr. MacLachlan portrayed almost every imaginable human emotion through the entire series. I know Twin Peaks: The Return is going to be odd but if Mr. MacLachlan is not in the Best Actor Emmy race for a Limited Series then the Academy is full of idiots.

Edward Louis Severson III a.k.a. Eddie Vedder at The Roadhouse

The final part of what made Twin Peaks: The Return a joy for me was almost every episode ended with a musical performance in The Roadhouse. Some of my favorites like Chromatics, “the” Nine Inch Nails, The Cactus Blossoms and Lissie were already on my playlist. I added new bands Au Revoir Simone, Sharon van Etten, and The Veils. Just from a musical perspective it was a feast. The one single performance which made the top of my list over the entire series was Edward Louis Severson III’s “Out of Sand”. You might know the singer better by his stage name Eddie Vedder and this song was a perfect capstone to one of the pivotal episodes. Giving these musicians the opportunity to enter the Twin Peaks playground was another brilliant decision.

Take a Bow Mr. Lynch

I know I have a lot of readers who were frustrated by everything; I got a lot of e-mail about it. I know Episode 8 was the break point for many. That episode was done in the most surreal way where I think Mr. Lynch was equating the A-bomb was responsible for the release of evil in to the world. I’ve watched the episode six times now and It is jam packed with so many visual beats I am still seeing new things. I think everyone who returned for episode 9 was like me completely captured. There was almost the idea of Mr. Lynch laying down this barrier of if you can’t deal with this I still have ten more hours for you.

My opinion is Twin Peaks: The Return has incredibly duplicated what Twin Peaks did. It re-invented what you can aspire to on television. If it spawns half of what the original did it will be fabulous.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: HBO’s Game of Thrones Season 7

There are often some great lessons about how you can’t please people so you might as well please yourself. Latest example is the recently completed season seven of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Game of Thrones is one of the last remaining big appointment television shows left running. After the completion of the sixth season last summer they announced they would be finishing the story with two final seasons; a 7-episode seventh season followed by a six-episode final season.

Game of Thrones is in a completely unique place to any other adaptation ever put on film as it has gone past the written page. George RR Martin the author behind the story being depicted in Game of Thrones has been unable to stay ahead of the producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. They only took on the project because Mr. Martin gave them much of the tentpoles of the end of the saga including the eventual ending. What is incredible is the television show is going to reveal the ending before the author does. I am sure Mr. Martin’s path to the same place has some more twists and turns but both the visual and the printed versions will end up in the same place.

With only thirteen episodes left the producers and the cast mentioned that the narrative pace was going to pick up speed now headed towards the end. I have no problem with that because I have spent sixty previous episodes with these characters I am now ready to get to the resolution of their individual paths. Here is where my first sentence comes into play. The first episode of this season was all about reminding us where each group of characters was while placing them within the overarching plotlines. After that first episode, the internet was ablaze with “what happened to speeding things up?”. I was thrilled with it; the final eight minutes showed the return of one character, who had been exiled the entire series back, to where she was born. The actress conveyed all her emotions on her face and in her eyes before speaking the final line of the episode. That was what I wanted; payoff for having followed this journey for six seasons. The next two episodes would move our characters rapidly towards their inevitable intersections. Time and again paying off the foundation built in many seasons prior. At the end of episode three with a single line from a dying woman a verbal dagger was plunged in to two hearts. Again, complaints were rife about how fast characters moved around and unrealistic timelines while also wondering where the action was.

Please address any complaints to our head of GOT Customer Service

Two of the next three episodes were some of the greatest spectacle ever done in television. Full on war with dragons and a terrifying battle of a few men against an army of the dead. This was broad action as has never been attempted on a television screen. During both moments, I kept thinking “Thank heavens for wide screen hd tv.” For all of that it was a quiet moment at the end of the episode in between which showed how smart these writers are with these characters.

One of the fun things is finally getting to see characters who have not always been together meet on screen for the first time or as part of a group for the first time. it is the latter that takes place at the end of episode five. In an example of narrative economy eight characters ping-pong, via a line or two, the reason they don’t trust one of the others in about two minutes. Each character is true to what we’ve seen before, each character reveals something new, and each character knows they are going to do something with this group that likely will kill them.

This all culminates in a last episode that slingshots the audience to the final season with anticipation. Except for those sad souls who can’t stop complaining. I am completely satisfied with this penultimate season as it felt like almost every important character development had been earned from what had come previously. Maybe the complainers just can’t bear the thought of it all ending. I can’t wait for the final six episodes.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: It Is Not a Documentary

Back during the holidays in 1978 I went to the movies with a group of friends to see Superman : The Movie. This was Christopher Reeve in the movie which advertised “You’ll believe a man can fly”. At the end of the movie Superman flies quickly around the Earth in the opposite direction of the natural spin to reverse time. When we were at a local diner one of the group said about this, “You know that wouldn’t work. It would just throw everyone in to space.” There was a bit of silence and I internally thought,” So you bought a flying invulnerable Superman with no problem but reversing the spin of the Earth to reverse time; that’s a bridge too far?”

Superman reversing the spin of the Earth

I’m not sure what it is about popular entertainment which brings out a group of people who must criticize the reality of the fantastical. It has existed from that moment after Superman: The Movie to today. What I really find irritating is when scientists have an insatiable need to point out that fantasy is not real.

Shh! Dr. Tyson says this is impossible.

One of my favorite scientists from whom I derive a great deal of pleasure listening to on subjects of actual science is extremely guilty of this. Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson just couldn’t help himself after Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out. The well-known astrophysicist just had to be a buzzkill pointing out the fighters shouldn’t be making noise in space. A weapon which absorbs the power of a sun should vaporize itself.  Finally, the small ball shaped robot which rolls everywhere would skid on sand uncontrollably. I am sure he felt better after correcting all the errors in the documentary that was presented on a galaxy far, far, away. Except Star Wars: The Force Awakens is not a documentary it is a science-fiction, notice the word after the hyphen Dr. Tyson, fantasy. You probably should look up the definition of that word too Dr. Tyson. There are so many important scientific questions which could use your expertise to spend time acting like the Star Wars universe is real science is beneath you.

How Fast Do You Fly Little Raven?

This past week has seen my internet filled up with many people who have also mistaken the sixth episode of the current season of Game of Thrones as a documentary, too. In a series where a woman has stood in a fire while everything around her burns not once, but twice, without her hair burning up got no comment. In a series where dragons exist right next to ice zombies, that’s okay. People are resurrected by a Red God, no problem. And assassins can change the shape of their bodies and voices just by putting on a mask; sure. All of a sudden, this week has been spent debating the relative running speed of one character, the flying speed of a raven, and the airspeed of dragons because of an improbable sequence in which our heroes are rescued from certain death. As this debate became more ridiculous I thought back to the scene between The Bridgekeeper and King Arthur in “Monty Python and The Holy Grail”

What is the air-speed of a Northbound dragon with a girl on its back?

The Bridgekeeper asks, “What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?. Arthur replies, “What do you mean? An African or European swallow?” The Bridgekeeper says, “Huh? I don’t know that.” Just before being flung into the abyss. For every person who can’t sit back and watch a piece of fiction and just be entertained I wish you the fate of The Bridgekeeper except I want every channel on your television and every screen at your movie theatre to be full of documentaries then those pesky inconsistencies in fiction will cease to be bothersome.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Fly Me by Daniel Riley

I have been thinking about the good old days of air travel back in the 1970’s. When I took my first plane flight I wore a tie. They put linen down on the tray table; in coach. The stewardesses were exotic examples of American womanhood. Of course, that is not the case today; it costs less, you’re lucky if you get pretzels, and there are flight attendants who are as harried as anyone whose job is to work with the public. A new book sets itself within the early 1970’s following a stewardess living in Southern California. It is the debut novel by author Daniel Riley called “Fly Me”.

The protagonist is recent Vassar graduate Suzy Whitman who, in 1972, heads to California to join up with her sister Grace as a stewardess for fictional Grand Pacific Airlines. Mr. Riley captures the lifestyle of a stewardess expertly. The weight checks, insistence on proper makeup, that they stay single to further the fiction of availability. Grace is married and they must have two phone lines one for the airline to call and another for her and her husband. The airline milieu provides the backdrop for the main plot.

Daniel Riley

Suzy gets caught up in moving drugs for the local weed dealer. Money issues sink her deeper in her life of crime. Mr. Riley brings it all together with a liberal sprinkling of 1972 touchstones throughout the narrative. It is in this middle part of the book where it is at its best. The ending is a frantic mixture of implausible events that only happen in novels.

I found Fly Me a perfect book for the summer as Mr. Riley kept the story moving even when the plot lines got a little frayed. If you’ve been looking for something to remind you of the early 1970’s or you just want a breezy fun read for the last few weekends at the beach grab Fly Me and let Mr. Riley take you on a flight of fancy.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Sancerre Rose Wines

Here at Stately Colognoisseur Manor as we reach the end of the dog days of 2017 we start looking for ways to alleviate the heat and humidity. By this point in the summer I’ve had my fill of fresh corn, lemonade, and white wines. I start to want alternative summer refreshers. A few years ago, on a trip to buy some wine for an end-of-summer outing I was falling back on my old set of citrus forward whites to bring. I began talking to the wine manager and he said he had a suggestion as we walked back towards the rose section.

While I knew deep in my heart there are excellent representatives of this style of wine I had been scarred by the explosion of bad white zinfandel in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. I called it “pink swill” as it brought out the worst in my wine snob nature. I would marvel as the bottle would empty faster than anything else around it. I found a few different versions of roses which I could use as a defense mechanism when I was asked to bring the pink stuff to a party.

While accompanying the wine manager on this occasion he stopped in front of a set of bottles labeled “Sancerre” but with pink wine in the bottle. I was interested almost immediately. Sancerre is one of my favorite wines to go with seafood. The great majority of Sancerre is the French version of Sauvignon Blanc as that grape accounts for a huge majority of what is grown in this Central France region in the Loire Valley. Accounting for about 10-15% of the acreage in Sancerre is some pinot noir plantings which is used to produce Sancerre Rouge and Sancerre Rose. Surprisingly I prefer the pink to the red when it comes to this version of pinot noir.

The first bottle I purchased was Pascal Jolivet Sancerre Rose. If I classified white zinafandel as “pink swill” I had found the opposite in this salmon colored wine. It had a fruity sweetness of cherries and strawberries with herbs providing contrast. This will be the easiest one to find as it has the largest distribution.

There are other good producers worth seeking out. Look for Domaine Delaporte, Domaine Girard, Domaine Philippe Rambault, Domaine Sautereau, and Le Roi des Pierres.

These are delightful accompaniments to cold meals where you just don’t feel like turning on the oven in August. They are also great in place of the typical deck or beach sippers if you’re tired of your favorite whites by now.

I leave it to 1975 band The Fabulous Poodles to give the best wine advice for these dog days, “Think Pink!”

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: HBO The Defiant Ones

I grew up with rock & roll. It existed from the moment I could recognize music on the radio until today. I listen to music every day. It is astonishing that there is over fifty years of music and styles for me to choose from now. I have always enjoyed finding out the history and background of the story behind the music. There isn’t a lot of it shown anymore but the recent four-part series on HBO called The Defiant Ones spanned the fifty years of popular music through the stories of two men; Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre.

The series begins with their triumphant moment when they sell their Beats brand speakers and headphones to Apple for $3 billion in May of 2014. The deal was agreed to on a Friday with Apple asking the men to be quiet and allow them to make the announcement in the following week. Only to have Dre and Tyrese post a video, after partying, leaking the deal late Saturday night. The next 48-hours were both men worrying if it would cause Apple to renege. That they didn’t turn on each other shows the bond which had formed.

Jimmy Iovine (l.) and Dr. Dre

What struck me throughout the series were that both men were successes because they never stopped hustling. By the time they became partners there was nothing these two couldn’t achieve.

Mr. Iovine’s story is of working from cleaning up at the legendary Record Plant recording studio to finding a seat behind the mixing board. He works with some of the most influential musicians of the 1970’s. Throughout he never lost the drive to keep earning his seat in the studio. Dr. Dre started off as a DJ on the club scene in South Central LA constantly hustling until he uses the small studio behind one of the clubs to begin forming the sound that would become west coast hip-hop. Just like Mr. Iovine his drive would take him up the ladder always earning respect at each level because of his work ethic.

That’s just Part 1. The remaining episodes chronicle their rise before combining their talents when Mr. Iovine folded Death Row Records into his Interscope label along with Dr. Dre. Together the two men realized their shared vision of the music business could transform it. The remainder of the series tells that story through the roster of artists they championed.

If you are a fan of rock music The Defiant Ones is going to remind you of the DIY mentality that the best who operate in that world bring to it. The Defiant Ones proves if you never stop hustling there are no limits.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Something to Tell You by Haim

I have a hypothesis when it comes to artists. The second effort is a better indication of success than their debut. There is a reason for the phrase “sophomore slump”. It shows up particularly acutely in the music business. Most of the time by the time a band is signed they’ve had years together earning that. Which also means when they enter the studio they can choose the best songs over that time span to use. It becomes much more difficult when they are asked to come up with new material for a second album in a year or two. If they can I tend to believe there is a chance for long term success. The three sisters who comprise the group Haim are the latest to show whether they can avoid this.

Haim performing on SNL

Haim was one of those acts which built their reputation on their live shows. That is much of what sets them apart in an era of production values over authenticity. They spent a year recording their first album “Days are Gone”. The length of the process was due to their using their live shows as rehearsal for when they would finally record the track. I am very fond of a less produced sound; “Days are Gone” was right where I like my rock and roll.

The second album “Something to Tell You” was released at the beginning of this month. It shows a band evolving. It is a funny thing when it comes to Haim because they have defined a seemingly singular sweet spot between pop music and alt-rock. When I say that you might think that would mean Haim has compromised both sides of that to land in the middle. What I think is different is they manage not to compromise anything while being both alt and pop.

The first single “Want you Back” is a good example. It is a song about wanting what you gave up while taking responsibility. It is surrounded by hooks of all kind. It has been one of my favorite songs of the summer. It became indicative of an album examining relationships in crisis. I don’t know if this reflects anything real in any of the band’s real life but if not, they do know how to cut to the bone.

Over the last month my favorite song has become “Right Now”. It is a heartbreaking song of wondering what happened. There is a plaintive organ which carries the lyrics to their end. I spoke about how their live shows feed into what gets recorded and there is a video which was shot around their recording session for this album. Which shows a more “live” version. If you compare it to what ended up on the album you get a real window into how these artists work.

It tells me there is much more to come from these three talented musicians, no sophomore slump here.

Mark Behnke