Sobs wear their influences like a badge of honor, plain for all to see. The band is incredibly open about the different sounds and pop styles that influence them: skater rock, PC music, Darla Records, and ’80s new wave – the album description on Bandcamp even matches track to genre. The Singaporean band’s homages to their influences throughout their latest album Air Guitar is as endearing as it is a fun listen.
Beyond just fitting in with their older faves, Sobs have a sound that fits right in with some of the best indie pop bands of today. Following lead singer Celine Autumn’s endeavor into hyperpop as Cayenne (for those interested, it’s much better than fellow indie popper Chloe Moriondo’s try at the genre), the band is back together for a rollercoaster through the indie pop landscape. While their tracks aren’t as perfect for tiktok as Beach Bunny‘s, Air Guitar’s early ’00s power pop influence is heavily similar to that of Beabadoobee’s latest album Beatopia.
The title track “Air Guitar” is an incredibly catchy powerpop throwback and Autumn’s vocal performance, detailing a long-doomed relationship, is perfectly paired with sweet riffs, catchy power chords, and a killer acoustic closing chorus. The doomed relationship narrative continues throughout the album, and “Dealbreaker”, which spells out the exact moment the deal-breakers become noticeable, has some of the best delivery on the entire project – particularly on the outro. “Friday Night” is the catchiest track Air Guitar has to offer, the rich guitar play perfectly complements the lyrical themes of going out with no purpose but to forget about one’s problems.
The production of Air Guitar is just as strong as the writing. “LOML” features some of the project’s punchiest drum play and gets the album as close as it gets to a full-fledged rock track. “Cool” is a well-done, stripped-back cover of Gwen Stefani’s 2004 track of the same name. Whether the change in vocalists is positive or negative is up to you, but the switch to a more laid-back instrumentation is a welcome improvement. “Burn Book” begins as one of Air Guitar’s most forgettable tracks, but a dynamite bridge pulls the track back and earns it one of the best outros of the album to boot:
‘Stripping down to the waist
Arms folded, it’s tiring me out
Please just hold on to your breath
While you’re stuck on my shirt like a stain
Curl my lip in disdain
Find me another
You’ll come around when your feelings dissolve again
Burning into my face
Hotter than desert blaze
Find me another drought
Feelings aside, my truth has yet to come around‘
As sweet as their sound is, Air Guitar does struggle to come together as a filling project. The project is only nine tracks and just over 30 minutes, with one track finishing well before the two-minute mark and another being a cover. A few more tracks would have gone a long way in helping the listener get a better feel for the band (especially when there are as many style shifts as there are on here), as well as making some mundane moments pass easier.
Sobs‘ latest album is a delightful entry to the growing stable of quality pop rock in the indie scene. They may not convince any nonbelievers to see the light, but for those that are already devotees, Air Guitar should quickly enter your rotation and Sobs will certainly be a band to watch.