yumi zouma – “bruise”

– featured image courtesy of henry hargreaves –

after releasing last year’s glimmering EP III and fulfilling their contract with cascine, yumi zouma decided to try something they’d yet to do: release a standalone single.

that single, “bruise,” feels a bit more direct than much of the band’s catalogue, but still very much within their wheelhouse; its origins are in the departure of yumi alum sam perry in 2017 and timbaland’s mid-2000s production cues, a percussion-heavy cut that finds yumi zouma in the foreground on the dance floor.

read more about the band’s new trajectory over at i-d and listen to “bruises” below.

yumi zouma – ep iii

– featured image courtesy of ryan mccardle & aidan koch – 

what else is there to say about yumi zouma that hasn’t already been said?  the new zealand quartet has proven, time and again, that their ability to craft pristine pop gems is second to none, regardless of whether the songwriting takes place in the same room or spread out across all corners of the globe.  as its members navigate towards the end of one chapter in their collective existence and look towards the next, EP III emerges as a cathartic victory lap.

following two similarly-titled extended plays and a stirring pair of full-lengths, EP III closes out a trilogy of works that have spanned the quartet’s entire career, pulling together snippets of demos dating back to their nascent days that help inform their latest round of collaborative songwriting.

opening number “powder blue/cascine park” is vintage yumi zouma, juxtaposing skittering hi-hats with wistful, arpeggiated pre-choruses and gliding refrains, its extended bridge a sustained instance of clarity that launches the track off into the sunset.  elsewhere, “looking over shoulders” tacks in an appropriately hesitant, contemplative direction, its understated current flowing towards a swirling chorus replete with the cool adage of “i was never yours to give away.”

bolstered by the early singles “crush (it’s late, just stay)” and the triumphant finale “in camera,” EP III is yet another sterling example of yumi zouma’s pedigree.  a return to the band’s original form, the four-track extended play offers a masterclass in their democratic, collaborative process, its memorable melodies and spacious soundscapes the end result.  EP III is out today via cascine; listen to it in full, below.

stadiums & shrines – dreams

– featured image courtesy of victoria masters – 

“album of the fortnight” is an occasional feature that digs into a recent release of note. the articles will run roughly during the middle and at the end of each month, always on a friday; the album or body of work in question will have been released at some point during that two-week span.  this column focuses on art that resonates deeply, on pieces that necessitate more than just a knee-jerk reaction.  next up: a compilation curated by stadiums & shrines.

What is a music blog, anyways?  caught up in a seemingly endless stream of press releases and promotional blasts, sites might adopt a reverse-chronological feed, posting multiple items per day; others may adhere more towards a one-a-day policy (hello); still others may publish more intermittently.  regardless of frequency, this small community is passionate about the craft, making a strong case that discovery and curation by human beings can be much more intimate and impactful than the work done by algorithms.

since 2011, the new york-based stadiums & shrines has drifted away from the daily grind of release cycles in favor of an excellent radio show and multimedia collaborations with beloved musicians.  the result of the latter is dreams, a sprawling compilation powered by visual artist nathaniel whitcomb’s collages and contributions from more than twenty artists.  a project that’s equally auditory, visual, and tactile, the physical release of dreams comes with a gatefold book containing “handmade collages and written vignettes — creative exchanges between musicians and … stadium & shrines,” says the site’s dave sutton in an interview with goldflakepaint.

those collages, assembled from a 1950s book on tourism, each contain images from a specific landmass – usually a country, sometimes a province or a state.  after assembly, sets of collages were delivered to specific artists; the “dreams” were the sonic interpretations that were returned, with sutton and matthew sage then adding a written narrative to the audio-visual product.

s&s dreams

many of the resulting songs can certainly be classified as ambient, but perhaps exploratory is a more thematic adjective; indeed, a handful of contributors selected their collages based on places they were visiting or would travel to soon.  wisps of maria usbeck’s tropical buoyancy swirl around the digital bonus track “mexico,” while the pastoral strains of mutual benefit are very much present in his ruminative “bali.”  while quibbling about genre could certainly occur, it’s clear that dreams did not mandate the sacrifice of an artist’s identity for the sake of a predetermined, prescribed aesthetic.  calling cards at times juxtapose or complement their counterparts, providing the compilation with a lush, three-dimensional palette.

tracks that subsequently appeared on an artist’s own project – teen daze’s “alaska” opens his 2013 full-length glacier, while ricky eat acid’s “algeria” is housed within a longer composition on three love songs – feel re-contextualized and reinvigorated here, a testament to stadiums & shrines’ dedication to sequencing.  of course, dreams also boasts stunning pieces that are brand-new to its release, like yumi zouma’s french excursion and the spanish getaway taken by julie byrne and eric littman.  julia lucille’s “norway” in particular stands out, the inherent and effective sparseness of her arrangements lending itself well to a frosty, nordic REM cycle.

like any seminal compilation, the effects of dreams can be felt in myriad ways.  the physical version of the album is bookended by sea oleena and gem club, two artists whose signals have gone dim over the past few years; hearing “portugal” and “england’s countryside,” respectively, feels akin to the familiarity and comfort that washes over when running into a long-lost friend.  on a larger scale, dreams is an affirmation of the outsized power of human relationships and collaborations, proof that enduring and endearing projects can be cultivated at comparatively glacial speeds.  the change of pace is refreshing.

dreams is out today via the fine folks at cascine.  spend some time with the album in full, streaming below.

yumi zouma – “half hour”

– featured image courtesy of aaron lee –

here at the dimestore, we’re just counting down the hours until yumi zouma releases willowbank, their second full-length album in as many years.  the new zealand quartet excels at creating an intimate brand of pop that can switch from microscopic to expansive at a moment’s notice; for a sample, look no further than “half hour.”

the band’s latest single is muted, reflecting the somber subject matter of death and its baggage, but “half hour” opens up into an enveloping entity towards its end, an ensuring, calming embrace.  coupled with the black and white self-directed video found below, “half hour” is a welcomed change of pace for the advanced offerings yumi zouma have put forth ahead of their new album.

willowbank is out october 6th via the inimitable cascine.  check out the video for “half hour” below.

 

yumi zouma – “persephone”

– featured image courtesy of aaron lee – 

six weeks out from the release of their sophomore album, willowbank, yumi zouma have let loose another effervescent masterclass in pop construction.  bleary bell tones and synth musings usher in the shimmering thrum of “persephone,” the second single to situate christie simpson’s lead vocal firmly in the foreground, independent of other textural elements.

ever breezy and wistful, “persephone” hits its stride as yumi zouma collectively crosses to the other side of the bridge; all but simpson’s vocal and a mellow synth pad disappear, providing a brief respite before the chorus surges for a final time.  with yet another pristine piece of pop added to their arsenal, the new zealand quartet seem poised to deliver a peerless new full-length.

willowbank arrives october 6th via cascine.  dive into “persephone” below.

yumi zouma – “depths (pt. i)”

– featured image courtesy of aaron lee –

yumi zouma are set to release their sophomore full-length, willowbank, on october 6th via cascine.  the surprisingly quick, but warmly welcomed, follow-up to last year’s yoncalla was recently announced in conjunction with a lead single, “december,” and today the quartet has shared another taste of things to come.

“depths (pt. i)” is awash in soft synth pads and clean, melodic guitar echos, a palette front-loaded with bliss designed to obscure its comparatively complex lyrical content, or to at least prompt listeners to spend a bit more time unpacking its nuances.  like the best yumi zouma tracks, “depths” is fleeting, a compact container of countermelodies that meanders back out to sea in just under three minutes.  but what a wondrous three minutes it is to behold.

take a listen below.

yumi zouma – “december”

– featured image courtesy of aaron lee –

yumi zouma barely needs an introduction on this site by now; the christchurch-based quartet has been honing their exquisite craft since 2014, at times separately, from all corners of the world, at others, in a collective space.  this meticulous, bountiful songwriting process had, up until today, yielded a pair of extended plays and last year’s full-length debut, yoncalla.  it’s a very pleasant surprise, then, that yumi zouma has announced willowbank, its sophomore album, due out october 6th via cascine.

willowbank marks the first time the band has had time to write and record a large group of songs together in their native new zealand, so perhaps it’s fitting that the album’s first single, “december,” seems like the perfect distillation of summer at the bottom of the planet.

as always, counter-melodic motifs are interwoven with ease, though christie simpson’s lead vocal sits more squarely in the mix than ever before, feeling less a part of the overall texture and more like a distinctly separate entity.  capped off by a stout, brassy coda, yumi zouma’s latest single retains a peaceful majesty that has easily become the outfit’s calling card.

“december” is another gorgeous achievement for a pop group that seemingly has no ceiling.  take a listen below.

 

thermostat check – dimestore saints

therm check fog lakewelcome back to thermostat check, the recurring feature that’s helped us take the temperature of the year in music so far; if you haven’t read our guests’ contributions yet, please take the time to do so.  after polling a handful of our most-trusted peers, we decided to offer up our picks as well.  the same structure applies: links to album streams are embedded in their titles, and a brief sample is provided at the end of each paragraph.  dig in.

the caliber and quantity of music released in the first half of 2016 has been staggering.  major artists have largely eschewed the traditional album-release protocol, instead opting to use platforms like hbo specials, fashion shows, and streaming services other than spotify to launch their music.  beyoncé, kanye west, chance the rapper, rihanna, kendrick lamar, radiohead, and james blake are all such obvious year-end contenders that it feels beyond redundant to dedicate this space to them, especially after some have already been covered in this series.

album-length projects have long been my preferred barometer to truly test an artist’s potency, so all five slots are dedicated to the format.  and to be completely honest, this list is not binding in any sort of way; it’s just what i feel most passionately about at the time of writing.  before beginning, i’d like to rattle off another laundry list of artists: explosions in the sky, alexei shishkin, kaytranada, william tyler, maria usbeck, weaves, told slant, pity sex, chairlift, mitski, daughter, yg, florist, mutual benefit, whitney, lucy dacus, margaret glaspy, pillar point.  all have released stellar efforts that deserve to be lived in.  now, without further ado, here are five others that have resonated particularly deeply with me in 2016.

beaconbeacon – escapements

ghostly international is a quintessential purveyor of mood music, but sometimes that mood is ambiguous.  tycho feels synonymous with sunrises, but also lends itself well to summer drives through the mountains.  com truise recalls a metropolis at night, yet his prolific remixing also renders him thrillingly volatile.  beacon, on the other hand, harbors an exclusively nocturnal mood.  escapements has spent many a night on my turntable, regardless of season, and the result is always the same: soothing, aqueous textures that percolate through every fiber of my being.

singing saw album coverkevin morby – singing saw

kevin morby’s rustic sensibilities are right at home with the rest of his dead oceans/secretly canadian/jagjaguwar cohorts.  his third solo album still finds morby sonically indebted to bob dylan (singing saw also happened to arrive pretty damn near the fiftieth anniversary of blonde on blonde), but his brand of listlessness and wanderlust is firmly rooted in the twenty-first century.

morby runs the gamut, from searing commentary on eric garner’s death at the hands of a new york city police officer (“i have been to the mountain”) to an earnest ode to his beloved guitar on “dorothy.”  the titular saw also creeps up in passing on many songs, often maintaining some sort of mythical status, while its sonic presence was prominent enough for my dad to e-mail me and propose we try to make one of our own saws sing sometime.  this album gets extra points for spurring father-son bonding time.

if the new steve gunn and william tyler albums resonated with you this year, singing saw will as well.  it’s purposeful alt-country, with impeccable guitar work intertwined through rich full-band arrangements that lend themselves particularly well to breezy summer afternoons.

mothers album covermothers – when you walk a long distance you are tired

i try not to reduce art to ranking, but the debut album from mothers is probably my favorite of the year so far.  when you walk a long distance you are tired is a complex weave of emotions, be it from kristine leschper’s sparse confessionals or from the band’s seemingly endless layers of complex, multi-metered arrangements that unfurl over the album’s eight tracks.  most songs can trace their origins back to leschper’s use of the moniker as a solo outlet, but the final products feel less like beefed-up, straight-ahead full-band renditions and more like each member’s heartfelt interpretation of the song’s thesis superimposed on top of one another.  this album appropriately soundtracks the long walks i take down back country roads, and its ability to repeatedly help me recognize and come to terms with my imperfections and shortcomings is nothing but cathartic.

pinegrove cardinal coverpinegrove – cardinal 

cardinal has been floating around in the ether for as long or longer than any other album on this list, but i didn’t become smitten with it until relatively recently.  pinegrove’s earnestness initially captivated me upon the album’s release, though it was quickly swept under the rug by a succession of equally-earnest albums.  i didn’t revisit cardinal until i caught steven hyden’s interview with frontman evan stephens hall on hyden’s celebration rock podcast a couple of months later, and it’s been in heavy rotation ever since.

i don’t think cardinal is a revelatory album.  there’s a sense of urgency underneath its exterior that can certainly be discerned after spending a considerable amount of time with it, but pinegrove takes more cues from the unassuming demeanor of 1990s indie rock than they do from whatever wave of emo they are often lumped into as a point of reference.  cardinal‘s potency isn’t realized by the fifth, sixth, or even tenth listen; it could be two years until i fully feel its weight.  that’s the beauty of hall’s songwriting: he can eschew the trends of instant gratification and universal acclaim that feel so prevalent this year in favor of a slow-growing album with the potential to become timeless.

yumi zouma yoncalla coveryumi zouma – yoncalla

i’ve shamelessly used dimestore saints to gush about yumi zouma for so long that i feel like their debut full-length needs little context or justification for earning a spot on this list.  the new zealand quartet makes some of the finest pop music in recent years, and yoncalla is further proof that they can accomplish this feat for an extended period of time.  if you need any more convincing, feel free to revisit our review, but it’s probably best to just click the streaming link above and dive right in.

this all but concludes our mid-year assessment of music, though any outstanding drafts will certainly be published, should they come in.  i hope this has been beneficial, that you’ve either found a new album to cherish or have circled back to give another one a second chance.  our regularly-scheduled content will resume, along with a few new features, and we’ll of course reassess 2016 in music come mid-december.  thank you, as always, for stopping by.

yumi zouma – yoncalla

yumi zouma yoncalla cover
out may 27th via cascine

the praise and accolades yumi zouma have received so far from this site – and a good portion of the music sphere across the internet – are far too numerous to try and sift through.  the new zealand quartet caught the attention of lorde based on the strength of their four-track debut ep alone; their subsequent slot as her tour’s opening act in late 2014 opened a pandora’s box of speculation that such early exposure necessitated a foray into more stadium-ready pop, but correlation does not always equal causation.

yumi zouma’s subsequent sophomore ep was populated with richer, more confident songs, to be sure, but you can easily chalk that up to the gradual progression of getting comfortable as a long-distance songwriting collective.  tracks like “alena” and “song for zoe & gwen” registered a newfound depth and pulse, but the subtle change in aesthetic felt more indicative of ceiling-clearing confidence than of a purposeful shift in trajectory.

after surpassing all expectations and cementing themselves as critical darlings, yumi zouma hunkered down to try something new: writing music together in the same geographic location.  the result is yoncalla, a gorgeous ten-song debut album that plays through incredibly smart, cool, and confident, reflecting a level of experience well beyond the band’s tenure.

it’s hard to listen to yumi zouma and not at least subconsciously conjure up images of sun-kissed, carefree summer days.  each song on yoncalla would easily have a home on any self-curated beach day mixtape, from the bleary-eyed guitar strums on the conversational “haji awali” to the percolating synth arpeggios on “barricade (matter of fact)” to the triumphant, driving-off-into-the-sunset lilt of “short truth.”  through this lens, these are songs that almost mandate an ocean breeze and cool sand between one’s toes for a comprehensive sensory experience, but stopping short at this superficial – albeit gorgeous – aesthetic would be a disservice to the album.

the true beauty of yoncalla is the pervasive presence of camaraderie woven through its sunny exterior.  yumi zouma’s early success was defined by four incredibly talented songwriters creating intimate sketches piecemeal from around the globe, and that intimacy grew tenfold once the quartet all settled down in the same room.

it’s immediately evident on the effortless vocal repartee that pervades “text from sweden” and “haji awali,” but yumi zouma’s kinship runs even deeper elsewhere on yoncalla.  eloquent melodies are constructed for christie simpson to trace on “remember you at all” and “better by your side,” and provide support and solidarity as she navigates through the insecurities of a turbulent relationship.  this structure seems to reflect a newfound degree of trust between members that may well have been fostered by a shared writing space; a noticeable strength of intertwining melodies and reliance on robust counterpoint seems more indicative of in-the-moment creation than of construction via file-sharing.

yoncalla is impeccably cohesive.  each track bleeds seamlessly into the next, although the album isn’t linear so much as it is semidiurnal, its ebbs and flows placed at perfect intervals.  the final tide goes out with “drachma,” a lovely subdued coda that briefly hearkens back to the group’s early days before its palm-muted main motif disappears beyond the horizon.

yumi zouma’s brand of nostalgia has often felt akin to reconnecting with a long-lost friend; with yoncalla, they provide the perfect soundtrack for the two of you to crack open a cold drink and reminisce for awhile.

 

yumi zouma – “short truth”

yumi zouma
photo courtesy of the artist

yumi zouma will release their highly-anticipated debut full-length, yoncalla, on may 27th via cascine.  there aren’t many adjectives left in our arsenal that haven’t already been bestowed upon the inimitable new zealand quartet, so we’ll just leave you with “short truth,” a sprawling, synth-saturated dreamscape that further pleads the group’s case for having an album-of-the-year contender on their hands.  take a listen below.