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Review: Seize the Power by Yonaka

Brighton based Yonaka's fresh, vibrant mixtape navigate anger, heartbreak and unapologetic self-acceptance through crunching guitar riffs and soaring vocals.

Photo: Jade Ang Jackman

Ordinary is an impressive opener. Not only is it a fiery track with thunderous drums and plot twists driving home the feeling that you don't fully know what you're getting yourself into in the best way possible, but it's just as beautiful lyrically. Within the first four and a half minutes, you're encouraged to sit with your emotions. Are you living for someone, moving heaven and earth to shine a light for someone and losing yourself in the process? Ordinary heart-wrenchingly asks, tell me who wants to be broken on purpose? and forces you to open yourself up for (at least) the next 25 minutes.

Where Ordinary is a gentle nudge to break free, Seize the Power is a literal shove away from whatever's holding you back, and it forces you to take a stand. Theresa Jarvis is remarkably fucking badass (yes, that is my professional take) and serves full-on personal cheerleader on this track. Chanting melts flawlessly into explosive drums and unapologetic vocals. Having a shit day? Chuck this tune on and let it carry you.

We're powering on into Get Out with deeply layered beats, synths and groovy bass. Juxtaposed to the upbeat, danceable melody - the lyrics feel strangely vulnerable. You pick me up so you can watch me fall, but you're the only one to make me feel anything at all is such an effortless punch to the gut, and it flawlessly words what it's like to think the world of someone who isn't good for you. Further, Jarvis states, we're alive in here, but will we survive out there which is a glimpse of hope to me. When a person recognises someone's hurting them and sets boundaries towards the other person, weirdly, it can feel like a breath of fresh air to see clearly that the relationship doesn't survive when it isn't solely based on the other person's terms.

Raise Your Glass picks up right where Get Out leaves us. It's a heartfelt anthem about picking up the pieces, carefully assembling them into something new. The lyrics I'm bigger than the world when I am well sums it all up. Jarvis sets off on a vulnerable journey of self-discovery toward who she knows she can be and actively chooses to show up for herself every day. It's been hard, and it's been tough, to quote her directly, but she's moving towards something worthwhile.

We're heading into some potential controversial hot takes on these following tracks. I was ridiculously excited about FEVER 333 featuring this album, but Clique just wasn't it for me. I'm a massive fan of both bands, but this collaboration lacks something. I'm not entirely sure if it's the too tightly controlled rage or the repetitive lyrics, but I think it stems from unused potential. Then again, it could simply be me having too high expectations for the collaboration. Still, I genuinely believe this could've been one of the album's best songs had they tapped more into what makes both bands great individually. (That being said, if this is your first time hearing about 333, I genuinely encourage you to check out their music.)

Greedy has some of the same issues as Clique. It's a good song, but it just doesn't fit in among the other tunes on the album. I'd love to hear Yonaka do more in this style, though, as I like the vibe, and it'd be cool to listen to them tap more into that - but among other more similar songs.

Next up is Call Me a Saint, my personal favourite. This song, to me, is Yonaka. It's vulnerable, empowering and entirely vibrant. When talking about the track, vocalist Theresa Jarvis says: "You constantly feel like you are on the run from something big and scary when you're battling with mental health. It's a long hard journey that you can never fully free yourself from, so you learn how to live with it. Dealing with this every day is a big fucking deal, and I want to praise anyone for making it to the next day and fighting through it. We are slaves to our brains, and the strength it takes to keep it together and keep moving is on another level."

Anthem stands out in the best way possible. Where the rest of the album bounces from expression to expression, Anthem is straightforward and stripped back. It's a beautiful ballad, driven by strings and a simple piano, featuring singer-songwriter Barns Courtney, who brings such a vocal nerve and effortlessly compliments Jarvis. They carry each other through soaring vocals and utter vulnerability, creating a cinematic piece of art and a worthy end to the mixtape with the promise that we're an army now, and you can't take us down.

What impressed me the most about the album is how bold Yonaka is. No matter what form of expression they take on, they give their all, and they, more often than not, make it work. Theresa's captivating vocals navigate us through quiet and vulnerability with the same skill as the loud and carefully distanced. Alex, Rob and George see us through crunching guitar riffs, thunderous drums and groovy bass-lines with skill and ease, flawlessly creating a soundscape that further carves out their sound as a band. The sheer diversity throughout the album makes for differing favourites, and I genuinely believe there's something for everyone willing to listen.

Seize The Power is out now via Creature Records.

Written by Eirunn Oppheim


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