Albums Of The Week

"Bedroom pop" trio Sobs charm with first album Telltale Signs

(From left) Jared Lim, Celine Autumn and Raphael Ong make up Sobs.
(From left) Jared Lim, Celine Autumn and Raphael Ong make up Sobs.PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER SIM

The home-grown indie-pop trio charm with perky yet bleak melodies in their first full-length album, Telltale Signs

INDIE POP

TELLTALE SIGNS

Sobs

Middle Class Cigars

4 stars


A lot of buzz has been building around self-proclaimed "bedroom pop" trio Sobs in the home-grown indie circle in the past year, since the band released their five-track debut EP Catflap.

With Telltale Signs, their first full-length album, the hype feels justified and the band provethey are no mere flash in the pan.

(From left) Jared Lim, Celine Autumn and Raphael Ong make up Sobs.

A triumph in songcraft, the new tracks pack a lot more vim and vigour than last year's EP.

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The album has almost twice as many songs and underlies the band's ability to charm with perky pop melodies shrouded with just the right amount of bittersweet vibes.

Like many indie-pop revivalists, Sobs' brand of guitar pop takes inspiration from the early 1990s indie boom without being derivative.

The enigmatically named singer Celine Autumn puts a modern spin on the tunes, most of which sees her navigating the vagaries of young romance.

Her reverb-drenched voice, high and lilting, can be dulcet and delicate or soar with intense yearning.

These traits are often present in a single song, like the title track. "Thought you always knew/How I felt when I'm next to you," she croons gently before belting out, "I'm tired of feeling so confused/ Stop changing your mind", amid Jared Lim and Raphael Ong's lush twin guitars.

She can disarm you with her frankness. Opening track Vacation, driven by Lim and Ong's plucky riffs, not only deals with the need for a getaway, but also sees the singer ruminating on body image and self-esteem issues: "She's what you want to be/But that's not what you are/My dysmorphia though/ Oh what a dilemma."

Breakfast lulls you with its buoyant melodies before you realise the lyrics are actually quite bleak - "No one tells me I'm losing grip of reality/It's like my mind has finally won me over" - as does Eastbound - "Don't wanna make a scene/But I'm tired of holding on" - while Party Song sees Autumn cast a critical eye on kids hopped up on "artificial energies".

The recordings have also vastly improved, ditching the clinical clarity of last year's EP for a more organic, warm and full sound reminiscent of pre-digital era recordings.

The analogue-friendly vibe is certainly not accidental - the band take credit for recording, producing and mixing the tracks themselves.

The fascination for all things 1990s and before extends to their decision to release the album not just on online platforms, but also on cassette tape, a medium making a comeback on many indie releases.

And for veteran indie fans who remember the obsession with ringer T-shirts - Sobs are selling them too.

The band will launch Telltale Signs with a show at gig venue EBX Live Space on Saturday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2018, with the headline 'Bittersweet Sobs'. Print Edition | Subscribe