After a series of excellent EPs, New Zealand’s Yumi Zouma have finally released Yoncalla, their debut LP. The band have been steadily attracting attention in the last few years for their rich yet delicate melodies, and as June creeps in, will Yoncalla stand out as the synth rock sound of summer?
When I first came across Yumi Zouma, I was totally captivated by their sound. It’s the kind of music that you imagine being paired with freshly washed sheets or stepping into a cool lake on a hot day, so I was hopeful that their debut album would be as enjoyable as their previous offerings. The band have had a little shuffle around for Yoncalla, with lead singer Kim Pflaum being replaced by Christie Simpson, whose vocals don’t feel as familiar, or as unique, but are not dissimilar enough to be jarring.
My girlfriend described it as “airy electronic music that sounds like modern day Enya”, and she isn’t too far off the mark. Yoncalla opens with Barricade (Matter of Fact), their first release upon announcing the LP. It didn’t grab me, and is by no means the best track, which in my opinion is the ear-worm Keep It Close To Me, a track I can imagine will elicit a big sing-a-long during live shows. Text From Sweden has elements of house music, while Short Truth‘s chorus provides the crescendo to the record, possibly two tracks too early. Hemisphere offers something a little different with its hearty bass, and is a track that most resembles their previous work. It’s able to draw your attention back to the music.
The problem with Yoncalla is that now, as I sit down to review this, there doesn’t seem to be that much to say. It’s enjoyable, don’t get me wrong but after a while all the songs merge into a similar floaty mesh of glittery guitars and airy lyrics, and get lost in the background. I can listen to the EPs for hours, each one offering something special and different, but Yoncalla just doesn’t give me THAT, the thing that made me fall head over heels for Yumi Zouma to begin with. Having said this, this is a great summer record for all the reasons I have mentioned; gentle, airly, floaty, perfect for a day hanging out by a lake a friends, and I think that’s the point.