Willowbank

Our review of 'Willowbank' has Yumi Zouma:
'Willowbank' by Yumi Zouma:

Our Rating

7.5/10

With a true sense of sound, Yumi Zouma returns with their second record, with all the smooth instrumentation you expect. While the record has an amazing tone and overall production that makes the whole record ooze cool and relaxation, this doesn’t always play to its advantage. Ultimately however, the album has trouble escaping its edge-less feeling that leaves it with great songs that often never have that standout moment.

Through glistening guitars and a funk tone in their bass, they open smoothly with “Depths (Pt. 1)” letting each synth note shimmer brightly. While straightforward as a pop song on the surface, the darker nature of the lyrics makes the track have a much more earnest and ambivalent note to it. Hitting some glorious highs in the vocals of “Persephone” there’s a triumphant mood to every word that will lift your spirits just by hearing it. Catchy vocally, the overall composition does feel a tad bland, leaving parts of the song less memorable than they really could be.

“December” switches to a more subdued production as the vocals lead the track, letting the track grow around them in a more organic bloom. Letting one hook dictate the emotions at a time, the song has a much tighter and potent impact. Beating its drums hard, “Half Hour” presents a coolness and menace in its tone that may distract you from the worry in its lyrics. While it does meander a little bit dynamically, the final chorus offers a large synth burst that makes the whole track feel more wondrous and special.

Grooving on dance beats for “Us, Together” they let the hooks stand on their own, using their synths instead to make each refrain bigger moment. Offering some of the better riffs overall on the album, it feels too samey in its second half. “Gabriel” is a tender ballad that lets its intertwined guitar lines weave a constantly moving energy that doesn’t feel tiring. Slowly letting more melodies all play together the track is a delicate dance that plays off great.

“Carnation” stays simple with stray piano notes and vocals, letting the band’s strong writing shine through. Building the arrangement section by section, they slowly rack up the emotional punch, and close it all at the apex. Recalling retro synth tones of the recent Alex Cameron record, “In Blue” takes a much more personal and smooth pop approach. With a suave club drive and the velvety vocals, there’s a hypnotic drive to the song that keeps it fresh.

Attacking the delivery with a much more immediate emotion, “Other People” is exciting in its startling shift of emotions. A tad predictable, their sublime production is even more creamy on the guitar-driven writing they put in here. With hints of 80s EDM, “A Memory” at times feels more like that than something new. As they build their heartbreaking choruses however, Yumi Zouma lets their deeper lyricism shine the brightest.

“Ostra” flickers with a jazzy sense of rhythm, as it skips off and on beat, to let the emotion sway with a carefree tick. Leaning into their more affected sound, the track offers a more freeing sense of perspective, like someone finally escaping their sadness. Spreading things out, “Depths (Pt. II)” takes things slowly as they come down on a much more pensive track that loops its chorus line to great effect.

Words by Owen Maxwell