UMI is a gentle and rising voice in the indie scene. Soaring out of the University of Southern California with her smash hit “High School,” she has blended-lofi, R&B and her spiritual beliefs to form a sound all her own. After releasing her EP and touring with Conan Gray in the fall of 2019, UMI has dropped her latest project – “Introspection.”
Inviting and reflective, UMI’s “Introspection” is a comfortable debut collection that is familiar to longtime listeners and welcoming to newcomers in its sound, but is far more daring and raw in its lyrical content.
The title track, “Introspection,” begins the EP with an invitation to look within oneself. Trappy beats and dreamy background vocals create a gentle background, similar to the sound of past tracks of hers like “Sukidakara” or “Remember Me.” UMI sings, “It’s all in my mind, it’s only emotion/Just look for a sign and swim into the ocean,” as she discusses struggling to keep difficult thoughts at bay and working to face that which is feared.
Deceptively tranquil, “Introspection” is about suffering and forcing yourself to confront and overcome obstacles. To fully understand and enjoy the EP, one must truly take a moment of introspection.
On the single “Open Up” UMI sings about not allowing herself to be emotionally vulnerable, and the ways these barriers have blocked her from experiencing true happiness. A consistent spitting beat with a maraca-esque sound in the background loops as UMI sings, “Don’t let go, of what’s in front of me/The pain in my soul, is making it hard to breathe/And I should’ve known that I’m still the older me/See my journey onward, sojourn home.” In order to succeed and heal, she must allow herself to move forwards.
UMI sings, “I didn’t mean to break your trust…I didn’t mean to make this tough… I’m scared I’m gonna pass you up…I really wanna show you love…Maybe I just need to open up…” She is weighing her options – lose someone or put her heart on the line. She fears that maybe even if she does offer her love to someone, she won’t be enough for the person for whom she longs. By not allowing herself to be honest and loving, UMI doesn’t let herself be happy.
Where I Wander
Still similar in sound to her past projects, “Where I Wander” is a call to cleanse and alter a shattered relationship. Crashes in the background are a low contrast to the bright and high sound of UMI’s voice on the project.
A modern-day hippie of sorts, UMI often works to provide spiritual clarity to her listeners and loved ones. She sings, “Open waters, open waters/Where I wander…Clear the chakras, send me higher.” UMI sings about how little time there is in life to remain guarded and wounded, calling for a restored relationship, “You should treat your daughter like she matter/With some kind of loving.” UMI pledges to remain welcoming, accepting and patient, inviting emotional growth, “I know you take time with your feelings/I wanna help out with the healing, boy.”
At first listen, “Bet” sounds like it falls into the category of UMI’s tracks like “Love Affair,” but the intensity of the production and UMI’s voice allows for a sharper sound. UMI demands genuine care and attention on the song, sharing frustration with not being challenged or valued. UMI sings, “I ain’t finna hold you, I mean that I be on my own two, you seen that.” UMI is done with games and she understands her worth, even asking, “And do you really f**k with a girl like me?”
One of the strongest songs on “Introspection” and in UMI’s catalogue, “Bet” is UMI’s ultimatum.
Pretty Girl hi!
Flute-like electronic swells open the song, UMI sings of pearls and pretty girls, calling back to lyrics in the opening track. While most of “Introspection” is about the moments of love that fracture hearts and allow others to collect pieces, “Pretty Girl hi!” is about the beauty and confidence that it can bring. “Could dance in just our baggy jeans/We could smoke under the laser beams…Put my mind into a better dream.” Sounding joyful UMI sings, “I feel no weight resistance/Feel it in the air.” The semi-rapped lyrics move quickly and the sung lyrics are held out long, with enjoyment. Referencing her 2018 hit “Butterfly,” UMI discusses floating off, “A butterfly, Gemini/Pretty girl, hi!”
“Pretty Girl hi!” is an airy song about enjoying the beauty of life, yourself and love.
The shared bottle held up to smiling lips on “Pretty Girl hi!” now lays smashed and broken on the floor. The serendipitously shallow moments of “Pretty Girl hi!” now are the painful downfall of a relationship on “Broken Bottle.”
Slow and filled with slightly more generic trappy beats, electronic surges swell in and out on “Broken Bottle.” UMI’s voice sounds more tired and less enthusiastic or welcoming than on the project’s other tracks. She sounds dismissive and finite in her ending of a relationship. She sings, “I tried to give myself away/I did not get to say to you/That I did have somethin’ to say…Look at the broken bottles/Crazy, I was a mess/Crazy, you was so hollow.”
Broken hearts and bottles conclude “Introspection,” a final moment of reflection and healing on UMI’s project about allowing herself to grow, learn, love and experience pain, completely uninhibited.
You can stream “Introspection” now!