The on the far side of the world lies a small record label in Singapore called Middle Class Cigars. With only four artists on their roster so far they’ve managed to put Singapore on the map for producing outstanding young bands. Their latest release comes by way of Sobs‘ debut album Telltale Signs. Sobs are the trio of Jared Lim, Raphael Ong and front woman Céline Autumn. As their name implies, Sobs delivers a set of songs that detail the frustrations and melancholy of romance, but instead of gloomy indie rock they wrap these tales up in infectious pop gems.
The Catflap EP introduced the world to Sobs in 2017 and displayed their talent for crafting sparkling indie pop right out of the gates. The band has the DIY ethos of bedroom pop contemporaries like Foliage who write, record and produce most of their music. Despite this humble beginning though their music is given a rich full production that has only improved in the year since their debut EP.
This is played up to some effect on Telltale Signs‘ first song “Vacation” which starts out sounding like a Lo-Fi cassette recording before exploding into the first chorus. Céline Autumn sings of her fleeting happiness but for the song’s two and half minutes duration her joyous singing carries the song. Following that is “Astronomy” bursting with power pop chords as Céline again croons about fractured relationships. She stretches and hangs on words like “blame” and makes you question if she is blaming herself or someone else. Interweaving guitars and glittering synths accent a gorgeous chorus on “Breakfast” which might be the saddest song you’ve ever heard about the most important meal of the day.
“All Poison” opens with gentle dreamy chords before the tempo picks up again. The familiar contradiction between Autumn‘s tortured lyrics and the band’s sunny melodies is more evident than ever, but it adds an unspoken ray of hope to the somber lyrical themes of this record.
As you might expect at this point “Party Song” isn’t as straight forward as the title suggest. Under the bouncy indie pop guitars and handclaps is an introvert’s social anxiety who finds she regrets throwing this party after all and would rather stay home.
One of the album highlights is “Sundae“, a song as sweet as its namesake. Sprinkled with catchy guitar riffs and a singalong chorus that’s the cherry on top, it will leave you craving more after its brisk two a half minutes.
Guitars steal the show on the upbeat “Eastbound” which shows off some of the albums more impressive fretwork while Céline sings of leaving her love at a train station. Sobs save their best for last though capping the album off with its title track. Lush synths and guitars reaching ever higher let you know you’ve reached the album’s crescendo. If “Eastbound” was Céline saying goodbye to her love, than “Telltale Signs” is her crying herself to sleep. Her voice manages to sound vulnerable and powerful at the same time especially in the single’s soaring refrain as the guitars and synths match their front woman’s forceful delivery each step of the way.
Each song on Telltale Signs is meticulously crafted, lyrically intimate and reveals new meaning and melodies upon repeated listens. Sobs have delivered a summer album for the sunny days and lonely lights and put the fun back in dream pop along the way.
Highlights: Telltale Signs, Sundae, Party Song
For Fans of: Subsonic Eye, So Sue Me, Night Flowers, Luby Sparks