You’ve heard a better version of this album
The idea of “alternative pop” is an interesting one. On a conceptual level, a more adventurous version of music that is firmly rooted in the mainstream, while maintaining some similar conventions to true “pop” music is pretty cool. It opens a lot of doors in terms of sounds, content, and tone that the artist can incorporate. However, this amorphous categorization has also led to a whole lot of music that can often sound quite similar. Unfortunately, much of Yumi Zouma’s Truth or Consequences falls into this trap. While there are great chunks of the more left-field work that an alternative pop fan might expect from artists that define themselves as such, this project is overrun with songs that sound like the B-sides of more prominent indie artists.
The album begins with two of the most frustrating cuts, “Lonely After” and “Right Track/Wrong Man.” Both tracks are at least somewhat entertaining; the issue is that both manage to feel so derivative of the type of indie-pop that would be right at home on a young adult-focused independent film soundtrack. The instrumentation and vocal work are never terrible, but they’re also far from experimental. Sometimes, this seeming lack of interest at even attempting to go above and beyond is the most frustrating part.
Fortunately, the next three songs, “Southwark,” “Sage,” and “Mirror to the Fire,” represent the most highly concentrated burst of excellence on Truth or Consequences. Here, the band seems to have woken up refreshed, and with much more substantive background vocals, lyrics, and all-around passion. The “oh, and I am perfectly yours” refrain on “Southwark” is a highlight of the album, and the deep groove that the band maintains on “Sage” (along with the beautifully light chorus) is maybe their most unexpected win.
The second half of the album is essentially a slightly more inspired (and longer) version of the first couple of songs. The band veers across a few different lanes from song to song, and the production remains lacking throughout each new venture. The vocal work also remains all too similar throughout, striking a muted but longing tone that works in some places (“Lie Like You Want Me Back”), but is a serious detriment in others (“Magazine Bay”). The ethereal melancholy of “My Palms Are Your Reference to Hold to Your Heart” is probably the highlight of the second side of this album, but still feels predictable.
Yumi Zouma can absolutely write great music. There was roughly an EP’s worth of great material on this very album, for that matter. They were unfortunately just unable to break through the wall of sameness that this type of indie pop can sometimes feel like. To put it simply, releasing an album that demanded deep experimentation and intense creativity, but doesn’t quite hit the mark all the way throughout is definitely respectable. Making an album like Yumi Zouma’s Truth or Consequences that, for most of its runtime, barely manages to tread water in the kiddie pool of mediocrity, does not command that same respect.