ALBUM REVIEW: ‘Willowbank’ by Yumi Zouma

New Zealand quartet Yumi Zouma return with their enchanting second album Willowbank. The record is the follow-up to 2016’s debut Yoncalla, and it promises to further raise the band’s profile. The members of the band are spread out across the globe, but, during the Christmas holidays, Yumi Zouma returned to their native Christchurch to graft out this latest collection of versatile pop songs.

The excitement of Christmas can be heard on lead single December, there is an air of anticipation as the melody and lyrics swirl around upbeat drums, before giving way to rich horns that complement the song perfectly. The song gives way to the thought-provoking ballad ­Half Hour. Starting off at a walking pace, the song’s energy grows before exploding into a final powerful chorus.

Us, Together picks up the pace, proving an opportunity to dance. Musically it’s carefree, but the lyrics tell a different story. It’s one of the best songs on the album.

Gabriel sees a return to the pensive, thoughtful ballad. By this point, it is clear that Yumi Zouma does two things well: Buoyant music that you can dance to and soul-searching ballads. The album flip-flops between those two styles. At first, it feels like an effective contrast, because it is. But listen to the lyrics and even in the upbeat songs, there are moments of despair. Also, every word is chosen because it is necessary to the song; not one word is wasted or used needlessly.

Willowbank is an honest and earthy record. By that I mean it is rooted in a single seed and the resulting songs, their energy and character, grow out of it.


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