Disturbing, confessional second album from Brighton’s Yumi And The Weather
Release Date: 23rd September 2022
Label: Miohmi Records
Formats: Vinyl (limited edition), Download, Streaming
I last came across Brighton’s Yumi And The Weather back in December 2021, when I described Yumi’s EP, Some Days, as “a ray of sunshine in gloomy times.” Well; the world has changed in many ways during the 21 months since I wrote those words – a pandemic has (all but…) ended, we’ve lost presidents, prime ministers and monarchs, and we can now, once again, enjoy live music. And change has arrived, too, at the door of Yumi and The Weather. Yumi has dispensed with the services of her colleagues-in-arms and Yumi And The Weather is now, to all intents and purposes, a Yumi solo project and, most significantly, there’s no way on earth that anyone would describe the ten tunes that comprise It’s All in My Head as “a ray of sunshine.”
It’s All In My Head is serious stuff indeed. Nothing is “normal” here, and nothing goes in the direction you’d expect it to. The subject matter of the songs includes topics such as sleep deprivation, getting sectioned, sexual encounters and twisted fantasies; as the album’s press release indicates, these are songs in which Yumi indulges in candid reflections of her inner psyche and the psychiatric care she received during the period of her life when she was, herself, being repeatedly sectioned.
But, perhaps, a little background information is in order… Yumi and The Weather is the brainchild of vocalist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ruby Taylor. Ruby emerged onto the music scene in 2013 with the first Yumi and the Weather EP, All We Can. Yumi’s first, eponymous album hit the racks in 2018 and we’ve since been fed a diet of EP releases, all leading up to It’s All in My Head, the second – and, in many quarters, eagerly awaited – Yumi and The Weather album. Over the years, Yumi has toured with the likes of Sea Power, and she’s appeared at numerous festivals across the UK, including Green Man, The Great Escape and Shambala.
I’ve previously been charmed by the way that Yumi has managed to take 80s musical stylings and add a distinctly 21st-century sparkle to tracks like No More and I Will Never Know and there are certainly copious further examples of the successful application of that technique on It’s All In My Head. But, this time around, there’s more – a whole lot more – as Yumi explores the possibilities of lo-fi punk, power pop, the minimalist electronics of Joy Division, 60s garage rock and even mournful balladry. After hearing It’s All In My Head for the first time, I was left with the distinct impression that Yumi has moved on significantly over the past 21 months – and why not?
And, this time around, Yumi has taken things almost entirely into her own hands. On It’s All In My Head, she plays guitars, synth and bass, delivers all the vocals and she undertook all the mixing and production duties. In fact, the only real outside help she needed came from Daniel Brooks, Sam Coveney, Mark Dobson and Leon Holder who, between them, came up with the impressive drum sounds that are a real feature of the album, and Kevin Tuffey who undertook the final mastering.
Yumi’s recent progression is evident right from the first bars of opening track, Imagine. Yumi delivers a disconnected, otherworldly vocal, to a backing of punky guitar and crashing drums. Unlike anything you’re likely to have ever heard before, it’s strangely and irresistibly alluring.
Yumi describes the title track as: “[a song] about conflicting thoughts, the battle between what is reality vs my own theories and perspectives. I was sectioned numerous times for psychosis since 2013, and I wrote this one time after coming out of hospital. I experienced many delusional thoughts due to sleep deprivation.” I’m in awe of the bravery it takes to make such a public statement about such a personal issue, and Yumi makes that statement by way of a song that combines light, almost poppy, verses with angst-ridden chorus sections. The song has been described as “a fantastical sugar-rush of sonics” and I’d struggle to find any better words than that!
There’s another delightful contrast of stylings in Howl, as Yumi superimposes a light, fresh pop song over a background of grungy guitars, frantic bass and choppy drums. The song has a flavour of Blondie about it and the guitar solo that takes over during the coda is wonderfully dramatic. Blondie are replaced by Joy Division for the dark, electronic Could Be Your Lover, one of my particular favourites. The song “examines primal sexual instincts and the pitfalls and power trips they can lead to.” It’s all very intense, especially as Yumi makes her repeated calls of “I wanna be your lover” as the song reaches its climax.
The rocky Fine Lines is another favourite. Pitched somewhere between midwestern 60s garage rock and Haight Ashbury psychedelia, the song takes a critical look at the motivations and effects of self-medication. Bass and drums take no prisoners, the guitars howl and screech, and Yumi’s vocal is distant and disorientated – it’s challenging and quite distressing. In complete contrast, New Way is a return to the light, 80s-flavoured pop of the Some Days EP. Yumi implores us to “Do the right thing” to a tasty synth and bass backing and it’s a welcome slice of light relief after the intensity of the earlier songs.
Lead single, Can You Tell, is another cracker. Yumi describes the song as “a cautionary tale about losing complete control,” as, once again, she manages to deliver a gentle, vulnerable vocal against a cacophonous, anarchic drumbeat a grinding bass riff, Velvet Underground-like guitars and spacy synth sounds. Perhaps the album’s real surprise package is the contemplative love-fantasy, Will You Ever Leave My Mind. Whilst recalling the emotions that inspired the song, Yumi mused: “[It’s about] falling head-over-heels for a fantasy that would never work out in reality. We get more drive when there is a love interest on the horizon.” Yumi’s vocal is mournful and surprisingly melodic and the song could easily be recast as a weepy ballad if the spacy post-punk backing were to be replaced by strings (and that’s not an experiment that I’m advocating, by the way…)
And if the punk, post-punk, garage rock and what-have-you explorations aren’t enough for you, then penultimate track, Start as You Mean to Go On has a go at taking on rough-edged 100mph synth-drenched Krautrock. It seems that there’s always something new on a Yumi and The Weather album…
This leads us nicely to the album’s startling closer, the plaintive, hymnal Night Walk. It’s a song that considers the importance of reliable friendship in dark times; as Yumi reminisces: “This song was inspired by a walk I had with a good friend who was also single, and it is, to me, a prayer/spell in finding someone where we will accept each other’s greatness and flaws with much love, and getting through hard and emotional situations, like when you are presented with anger. Do you feed the fire or do you cool it for the one you love?” Built around an eerie, chunky bass lick, the song is suitably dramatic and it builds in a way that is almost scary. The synth surges upwards and Yumi’s echo-y vocal builds in urgency and desperation until, eventually, the anguish subsides and all becomes calm. A fitting end to an album guaranteed to challenge and excite the emotions of any serious listener.
Watch the official video for Can You Tell, the album’s lead single, here: