Music

Yumi Zouma's 'Truth or Consequences' Is Social Distancing Set to Music

Photo: Aaron Lee / Courtesy of Girlie Action Media

Yumi Zouma, a once-New Zealand-based band whose members scattered to four different cities around the world, return with a sparkling new pop album about distance, Truth or Consequences.

Truth or Consequences
Yumi Zouma

Polyvinyl

13 March 2020

It is sheer coincidence that Yumi Zouma's new album, Truth or Consequences, was released during a week when the phrase "social distancing" began trending, thanks to a global pandemic. With band members living in New York, London, Wellington, and Christchurch, Truth or Consequences is a real-life example of making the best of social distancing. Plus, it is quite simply an excellent pop album.

Formed in Christchurch, New Zealand, Yumi Zouma managed to survive the relocation of three of their four members to far-flung cities following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. However, the band members – Christie Simpson, Josh Burgess, Charlie Ryder, and Olivia Campion – stayed in touch and used the distance to their advantage, writing songs via email. After recording and releasing two EPs, the band's debut album, Yoncalla, appeared in 2016, with follow-up Willowbank appearing the next year. Truth or Consequences, the band's third album, was recorded when the band could gather for sessions in Los Angeles, London, and Christchurch.

Truth or Consequences opens with "Lonely After", a deceptively breezy pop song that finds the narrator immediately admitting, "I was embarrassed when I knew who I was, so wild and zealous and overly down for the cause". The lines introduce a theme of relationship awkwardness that runs throughout the album. "Right Track / Wrong Man", a shimmering track that might remind listeners of the more pop-oriented side of New Order, breaks down the unraveling of a romance with an air of acceptance.

Throughout Truth or Consequences, Yumi Zouma offsets lyrics describing romantic disillusion and ennui with sparkling, upbeat music, all of which is exemplified on "Cool for a Second". Guitars can be heard in the mix, but well-employed keyboards dominate the album. While Yumi Zouma isn't strictly a synthpop band, electronics play a major role in the band's sound.

While the songs on Truth or Consequences generally fall into your basic catchy pop-rock template, there are a few stylistic curveballs. "My Palms Are Your Reference to Hold to Your Heart" is a moody mid-tempo ballad, "True Than Ever" is dancefloor-ready, and "Magazine Bay" has nice mid-tempo yacht rock/funk lilt to it. But album closer, "Lie Like You Want Me Back", ends the album on the same kind of musically ebullient, emotionally ambivalently note that characterizes all of Truth or Consequences.

In many ways, Truth or Consequences feels like a 21st century reboot of Apartment Life, the classic 1997 album by Ivy. Both albums share a distanced view on relationships, and Simpson's vocals call to mind those of Ivy's Dominique Durand. Ivy is more guitar-based, but the two albums share a similar atmosphere. Another similarity between the bands: Ivy's follow-up to Apartment Life was called Long Distance. If you like Apartment Life, you'll like Truth or Consequences.

Distance, and often isolation, is clearly going to be a theme for all of us living in 2020, but Yumi Zouma's Truth or Consequences might provide a warm soundtrack and some thoughts on the wisdom and perspective that we can sometimes gain from such distance.

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