Springing into Action
Debuted on March 18th, 2022, Yumi Zouma’s Present Tense is yet another strong release for the New Zealand-based alternative pop group. This album includes easily digestible music on the surface and deeper themes if listened to more intensely. Yumi Zouma is able to mix the elements of a successful alt-pop album to create a beautiful and strong additive to their discography. It’s the perfect album to delve into this new spring season.
Before the full album was released to the public, Yumi Zouma’s singles were already creating a lot of buzz. Of their four pre-released singles, the one that stood out the most was “Mona Lisa.” This song immediately capitalizes on some of the album’s overall biggest strengths, making it last long in one’s head long after the first listen. Some of these musical qualities include a light utilization of percussion, a mixture of softer instruments such as acoustic guitars or lighter synths. As a result, a peaceful or playful mood is created. “Mona Lisa” also contains a mixture of relative keys. The song starts in Eb major, but during the verses it switches to C minor: the relative key signature for Eb major. As most of the songs on this album are consistently in major keys, “Mona Lisa” in particular stands out as it continuously flips back and forth between these relative keys. This song also has a very catchy pop-like chorus. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as the pop structure lets the song get stuck in one’s head really quickly.
In a few songs, including formerly mentioned “Mona Lisa,” there is an almost a whispery backup vocal featured from lead singer Christie Simpson. This sort of soft, whispery, often high-pitched singing has become popular in the last decade in alternative pop. This style of singing was popularized in pop a few years back from Billie Eilish’s music, and is a component that works wonders in this album as well. Using these quiet moments in the verses can create a sort of intimacy and can help the listener feel the emotional vulnerability in the lyrics or the performer. In the single, “In The Eyes Of Our Love,” echoing takes place during the instrumental breaks between the chorus and verse. This sort of light harmonization happens in the majority of the tracks and leaves the listener wanting more. This also leaves listeners with an intimate listening experience, particularly when wearing headphones.
While all 10 of the songs on the album are in major keys to some extent, not all of the songs would be correctly designated as “happy.” For example, the fifth track, “Razorblade” has loud percussion and includes an electric guitar during the bridge to help portray the intensity of romantic feelings. Yet, overall the album is a mostly easy and fun listen; perfect for the springtime when it’s being released. Another song in the album that diverges from the playful and easy-listening motif is “Honestly, It’s Fine” which discusses intrusive thoughts and overthinking. The majority of the song is in a minor key and also switches back and forth between major and minor chord progressions. During the bridge there is a use of light horns to show the building up of pressure which is extremely effective, making the song stand out because of the unique use of the horn instrumentation.
Overall, with the utilization of lighthearted and playful instrumentation, Yumi Zouma’s Present Tense is a great way to spring into the new season with easy to listen to catchy tunes. Yumi Zouma’s new album is able to live up to the group’s already impressive discography by giving listeners a breath of fresh air and songs that set them at ease.