Air Guitar by Sobs Album Review

Air Guitar by Sobs Album Review
Air Guitar by Sobs Album Review

Air Guitar by Sobs Album Review

Under all the glitter, Singaporean indie pop trio’s second album contains somber truths concerning love.

An oasis of sunshine in Singapore’s melancholy indie scene is Sobs. Telltale Signs oozed defeatist languor and ended with an exasperated sigh, capturing the frustration that emerges when a relationship lacks direction. Underneath their scuzzy guitar-pop were snappy hooks and danceable sensibilities, reminiscent of Frankie Cosmos and Jay Som. Despite their bedroom stylings, Sobs’ pop ambitions were bigger than they could have imagined.

Those pop ambitions are fully realized on Sobs’ second album, Air Guitar (their first for Topshelf Records). In the four years since Telltale Signs, vocalist Celine Autumn briefly stepped away from her guitar and instead embraced hyperpop’s effervescence. In the past, Jared Lim and Raphael Ong had given Sobs’ music some sheen, but Autumn’s self-titled solo EP as Cayenne was pure pop gloss. Cayenne, co-produced with Lim, was a sugar rush of carbonated synths, glitchy distortion, and magnetic hooks. On Air Guitar, Sobs blend fizzy pop production with summery indie rock without compromising their sharp edge.

On this record, Sobs sketch a history of guitar-driven indie pop in Singapore. A ‘80s new wave shimmer evokes the teenage nostalgia of obsessing over a kiss in your bedroom as the narrator comes smartly prepared for rejection. Even as its protagonist anxiously awaits abandonment, the song is a rosy fantasy. A compact, jangly arrangement reminiscent of acclaimed Japanese indie pop group Advantage Lucy masks frustrations on “Lucked Out.”. “Burn Book” invokes Singaporean shoegaze band Cosmic Child, whose frontman Zhang Bo plays bass and guitar, but with a twinkling riff straight out of Midwest emo.

Sobs’ lyrics are still influenced by bedroom pop’s intimate sensibilities. The record portrays Autumn as a passive character trapped in a relationship that should have ended years ago. “Your lips don’t taste the same, you’re no longer mine/You’re not worth the fight,” she declares on the title track. Gutless to properly end things, the song buries its remaining sheepish confessions like whispers under a distorted guitar. Autumn’s last attempt to escape is made even more poignant by the spirited guitar line at the end of the song. In “Friday Night”, Autumn laments yet another emotionally unavailable partner while drifting through a cramped house party. As the saccharine power pop transforms into an electric drum’n’bass breakdown, “Friday Night” conceals her despair.

As painful realizations follow one another, Air Guitar is candy-coated without dulling the pain. Autumn is helplessly pleading for someone more reliable if she is not surrendering to the reality of an absent and thoughtless partner. “Don’t call me back, because I don’t want to hurt you,” she begs on “LOML,” exhausted from fatigue and uncertainty. The earnest and tender power pop of “World Implode” disavows that pessimism. Sobs deliver on Air Guitar’s promise of going big with gleaming, guitar-led confections that convey the cyclical feeling of falling in and out of love.

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