New Zealand

Album Review: Marlon Williams’ self-titled debut

Marlon Williams began his musical career in a church choir ensemble in Christchurch as a child and had a short stint in the University of Canterbury’s classical music program until him and other old choir boys created The Unfaithful Ways. The band garnered a decent amount of attention but later on the band dissolved and Williams moved to Australia, drawn to the music scene in Melbourne. The rest is history.

Strap in, because this record doesn’t hesitate. It opens with “Hello Miss Lonesome”, a blue grass-inspired wild ride of a track. It immediately ejects you at high speed into what is an incredible sonic road trip through nine unique stops, each displaying a “different character”, according to Marlon Williams. New Zealand-born singer/songwriter says that each song, once written, no longer belongs to him because in the moment of writing he is creating these characters, then releasing them. “Even if it’s a very personal song, it doesn’t belong to me once it’s written,” says Williams. This is truly audible on his debut self-titled record. Each track exists separately from each other track with the only overlap being Williams’ ability to whisk you away with his incredible voice.

Later on is “Dark Child”, a lilting beauty, Williams’ voice intoxicating. This track is a favorite of mine as it builds from its melancholic beginnings to a loud, unexpected rock n’ roll-oriented climax. The track comes with a mesmerizing and simultaneously disturbing video. Body bags are hauled out of an apartment where a crowd of cops and neighbors have gathered as something appalling has happened inside, though we never know what happened inside that apartment.

And from here, you move to another time with Williams. His timeless voice takes you back several decades during “I’m Lost Without You”, a song that could very well have come from the 50s or 60s, until the synthesizer during the latter half of the song reminds you of what year it really is.

Among many original works, Williams covers the Bob Carpenter song, “Silent Passage.” Despite the material not being his own, he inserts his own flavor and the track fits flawlessly with Williams’ blue grass, early country and rock-inspired genre.

With each listen, this record blossoms and becomes something bigger than it was upon first listen. Williams’ songwriting abilities are captivating and regardless of lyrical content or mood, there is something absolutely haunting woven through this album. This is magnified by the influence of Williams’ time in the church choir, showcased by perfect gospel harmonies in songs like “Everyone’s Got Something to Say” and the literally haunting track, “Strange Things.” “Strange Things” is a tragic tale woven by Williams about the passing of the main character of the song’s wife, Lucy. The song is accompanied by a music video where Williams plays the character who loses his wife. He chases around the uncannily realistic ghost of his lost wife. There is something ghostly about the howling of the backup vocals mixed with spine-chilling strings and descriptions of eerie happenings in the “house where Lucy died.”

The album closes with the exquisite and poetic, “Everyone’s Got Something to Say.” The simplicity of this piece allows Williams’ voice to soak in at a depth that is not reached on any other track on the record.

Williams is currently touring the US and you can find all his tour dates here.

 

 

 

 

Perfectly pop, Yumi Zouma’s new single: “Barricade (Matter of Fact)”

Yumi Zouma is a uniquely pop-oriented group composed of four friends who grew up together in Christchurch, New Zealnd. Christie Simpson, Sam Perry, Charlie Ryder and Josh Burgess parted ways as adults but their love for music kept them together. Via email, the band stayed in touch, coming up with some of the very first sonic bits and pieces of Yumi Zouma. With two EPs out, the band is excited to announce the release of their debut full length, Yoncalla, which will be out on May 27th via Cascine. The second single, “Barricade (Matter of Fact)”, is everything you could ever want in a pop track. It’s simple, catchy, soft at the start and finishes strong. Oh, and the synthesizers. They’re perfect.

Here’s what Josh Burgess had to say about the track:

“’Barricade’ was the first song that was really collaborative for us. I remember sitting on the floor in Charlie’s apartment playing an unplugged bass, Charlie with an unplugged guitar and Christie humming out melodies. I hadn’t worked on a track like that since I was in college. Around the mid-‘00s there was a real fetishization of ‘solo musician in their bedroom writes indie pop masterpiece’ which I think was a result of everyone getting MacBooks, multi track recording becoming seamless and people being sick of diplomatic creative arrangements. We worked that way (in isolation) on our first two EPs, but last year made a conscious effort to write together. It was never for the spontaneous element (the final version of ‘Barricade’ is a far cry from unplugged guitars and bass) rather, a way to squeeze the best ideas out of us and chop the strongest parts into a track.”

You can pre-order the album on iTunes or on vinyl! And check them out touring this spring/summer.

Wed. May 25 – San Francisco, CA @ Brick + Mortar (w/ Maria Usbeck)
Thu. May 26 – Los Angeles, CA @ Los Globos (w/ Maria Usbeck) (tickets)
Sat. May 28 – Brooklyn, NY @ National Sawdust (w/ Maria Usbeck) (tickets)
Thu. June 2 – Boston, MA @ Middle East (Upstairs) (tickets)
Wed. June 8 – Washington, DC @ DC9 (tickets)
Fri. June 10 – Montreal, QC @ Brasserie Beaubien (tickets)
Sat. June 11 – Toronto, ON @ The Garrison (tickets)
Tue. June 21 – London, UK @ Moth Club (tickets)
Wed. June 22 – Paris, FR @ Point Ephémère (tickets)
Thu. June 23 – Amsterdam, NL @ Sugar Factory Small Hall
Fri. June 24 – Berlin, DE @ Karrera Klub Birthday Bash at Bi Nuu (tickets)
Mon. September 12 – Tokyo, Japan @ WWW
Tues. September 13 – Nagoya, Japan @ Tokuzo
Weds. September 14 – Osaka, Japan @ Pangea