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Album review: Yumi Zouma // Present Tense

The new record from New Zealand group Yumi Zouma is a whirlwind of emotions from start to finish.

‘Give It Hell’ is a bright introduction to the album: cool instrumental tones and glossy synths making up the base of the melody, as faster chorus hooks provide surges of energy and quickening drum beats drive the track on. Previously released single, ‘Mona Lisa’ builds up into something anthemic, leaping into a colourful finale brimming with shiny guitar licks and sweet saxophone hooks.

Recorded in sessions around the world, Present Tense was built in New York, Los Angeles, Florence, Wellington, and London, with each of the group’s four members residing in a different area of the globe. Yumi Zouma’s sound is well travelled, using a wide array of instruments to develop their rich pop melodies, with saxophones, woodwinds, and strings just to name a few, alongside a foundation of guitar, drums, synths and bass.

Thematically, the album centres around relationships and life experiences, from the doubts expressed on ‘If I Had The Heart For Chasing’, to the regret-tinged ‘Of Me And You’: “Don’t call up, I’ve already said too much”. The record tells a story, going through the motions of heartache, longing, and moments of make or break.

Highlight of the record, ‘In The Eyes Of Our Love’ is more fast-paced and danceable than the tracks surrounding it, spinning synth hooks and singalong lyrics cementing it as one of Yumi Zouma’s best works. ‘Honestly It’s Fine’ continues down a similar vein, slower verses jumping into incredibly catchy choruses – addictive to listen to, and easy to keep on repeat, meanwhile the sharp vocal hooks of ‘Where The Light Used To Lay’ are somewhat reminiscent of Christine and the Queens.

Present Tense sees the group hit more energetic peaks than previous releases have allowed, with big cinematic moments interspersed throughout the record. That doesn’t mean more muted sounds have been entirely deserted though – the whispered verses of ‘Razorblade’ and the dark lyricism of ‘Haunt’ offer up deeper explorations of love and hurt, via murkier instrumentals and echoing production.

Final track, ‘Astral Projection’ eludes warmth. It’s the feeling of racing heartbeats and running through green fields, and sounds like it could be the last song on the soundtrack of an indie romance movie. Overall, Present Tense feels like it could be a film soundtrack in itself – it has all the ups and downs of a romantic drama storyline, with enough heart-racing moments to keep you captivated all the way through.

photo credit: Nick Grennon

Author avatar
Ellie Howorth

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