The New Zealand band’s best songs are what one might call picnic disco: lazy in the best way, like stretching out under a hot sun with only the occasional drum loop to gently poke you awake.
Some say that pretty isn’t everything, but isn’t it nice sometimes? Like charm bracelets, miniature pastries, or Timothée Chalamet—everyone loves those. New Zealand band Yumi Zouma have been making pretty, soothing dream pop since 2014, and their newest album and first release on Polyvinyl, Truth or Consequences, is no exception. Enveloped in gauzy synth and vocal harmonies, their music is as sweetly tart as a ripe raspberry. But for all the technical perfection, the winsome aesthetics prove too insubstantial to stick.
The highlights of Truth or Consequences are what one might call picnic disco: songs that feel lazy in the best way, like stretching out under a hot sun with only the occasional drum loop to gently poke you awake. On the bright “Right Track / Wrong Man,” vocalist Christie Simpson sings like she’s about to doze off, dreamily remembering a time when “we were bleeding sunset.” Simpson excels at this kind of sweet, sleepy delivery, which imbues her lines with heartache. When she sings the word “sad” on “Lie Like You Want Me Back,” it feels personal and specific. “I thought so hard about it,” she says of a lost relationship, turning the statement into an urgent plea for love to return.
Yumi Zouma are very good at building these wistful, fleeting moods. “I’m hoping that you’ll catch me/Text me when you’re heading out,” Simpson sings over the crystalline arpeggios of “Mirror to the Fire,” a song that shares its nostalgic synth-pop sound with bands like Alvvays and the 1975. The echoey synths and billowy vocal layering of “Cool for a Second” are as rich and soft as butter in a hot pan. Even the title of “My Palms Are Your Reference to Hold to Your Heart” is full of saccharine melodrama—specific without being specific, like the painfully earnest message you might send to a crush after much deliberation and re-writing. Truth or Consequences is prime teen romance soundtrack fodder: unblushingly indulgent and emotional, deeply invested in truth, love, and reverb.
But eventually, pure sentimentality wears thin. There can only be so much shimmering synth, ticking drum machine, and naptime vocals before it all begins to blend together. A truly great teen movie or 1975 track isn’t defined by an unwavering commitment to genre and form, but by the challenging of it. Even when an experiment comes up short, mistakes and failed attempts allow us to see others as the messy, raw, difficult humans we know ourselves to be. Truth or Consequences is more like a Valentine’s Day card—pleasantly sentimental, at times gratifying, and all too easy to forget.
Buy: Rough Trade
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