Haim’s new single appears at first to be the latest in a long line of tributes to Los Angeles from the sister trio that could scarcely be more psyched to live here.
“L.A. on my mind,” the band’s Danielle Haim sings to open “Summer Girl,” in which she goes on to mention freeway overpasses and “the earthquake drills that we ran.” (Hey, we’re proud of what we’re proud of, OK?)
Keep listening, though, and you’ll detect a clear essence of America’s other cultural capital in the song’s saxophone lick and doo-doo-doo vocal refrain, both borrowed from Lou Reed’s iconic New York City salute “Walk on the Wild Side.”
It’s an unexpected turn for Haim, which moves away from its super-polished SoCal pop toward a looser, grittier sound — not quite the song-of-the-summer candidate promised by the title but a delightfully odd little tune nonetheless.
In an Instagram post, Danielle Haim — heard from recently on records by Vampire Weekend and Clairo — said she wrote “Summer Girl” after her partner, producer Ariel Rechtshaid, was diagnosed with cancer as they worked together on the group’s last album, 2017’s “Something to Tell You.”
“We were touring on and off at this time and every time we were on the phone with each other or when I would come home in between shows, I wanted to be this light that shined on him when he was feeling very dark,” she said. “I wanted to be his hope when he was feeling hopeless.”
Thus the moving lyric in the song’s bridge, after she describes “the tears behind your dark sunglasses,” where she sings, “You walk beside me, not behind me / Feel my unconditional love.”
“Summer Girl,” which came out Wednesday — it’s the first in what Danielle Haim suggests might be a series of singles — comes with a video directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who previously worked with Haim on its clips for “Right Now” and “Little of Your Love” and on the band’s visuals for its performance last year at Coachella.
And if the song looks to New York, the video is pure L.A., with scenes shot at Canter’s Deli and the New Beverly Cinema and on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, just down the street from where Haim set its “Want You Back” video — itself a riff on Tom Petty’s clip for his Valley-centric “Free Fallin’.”