I was not expecting this. Last year’s Glitch Princess was one of the better albums of the year and established yeule as one of the best electro-pop acts in the world, but when softscars’ first single rolled out a mere 15 months after last year’s album, I honestly expected what generally happens with that quick of a turnaround following a breakout project. A similar sound, a similar quality, and possibly turning what could have been a B-sides project into a full new project with a few new tracks made recently – and that would have been great! Glitch Princess 2 would have been one of my favorites of the year, but instead, yeule completely reinvents their entire sound and style with softscars and dropped one of the best albums of the decade so far.
Tracks like “Don’t Be So Hard on Your Own Beauty” off Glitch Princess showed off yeule’s ability to crush an incredibly unique blend of rock/glitch-pop, but as excellent as that album was, it tended to stick to lean closer to its pop elements. softscars sonically shifts to completely new and uncharted territory for yeule and takes you through a sonic tour of some of their favorite ’90s and early 2000s rock acts – reflected back at you like the shimmer in Annihilation.
yeule’s best work to date as an artist comes on softscars and the peaks almost manage to reach orbit. “aphex twin flame” has one of those starts where you can tell the artist is playing with their food and once they pick things up things are gonna get insane and at the two-minute mark yeule achieved godhood. The first time I listened to this track and the guitars picked up again in the pre-chorus I started seeing stars.
‘A heartthrob crush that burns the skin
I fall in love with original sin
I cut so deep I see the flesh
But for you, I try to look my best
How much love have you stolen?
How do you fill my empty heart in?
The seas I swim to make you see
If you need a bone, I’d break my knee’
softscars frequently starts tracks with beautiful and simple acoustic guitar playing before the track gains steam, picks up new sonic elements, and turns into the world’s most harmonious sensory overload.
“software update” might be my favorite example on softscars. yeule’s voice sounds equally gorgeous over the simple guitar sections, and as the track gets more elaborate as the vocals glitch in and out, and overlay. There’s never a simple moment where yeule purely pays homage to a genre it is always meticulously blended into their own style. “dazies” starts up with a My Bloody Valentine lead-in, before being abandoned to become a Nirvana song, all is perfectly enveloped into yeule, and then all of it is dropped again as the track closes on an acoustic section. The closest softscars gets to a return at making a straightforward electro-pop track is the still phenomenal “bloodbunny” where yeule delivers an irresistible sing-songy back and forth during the track’s verses.
The Grimes comp has been a bit unavoidable at times with how much a shared aesthetic both have, and with yeule considering Grimes a big influence, but the Singaporean star has grown beyond the original. yeule’s music blends the tech influences with dark and at times Cronenbergesque ways of describing body dysmorphia, being non-binary, and suicidal thoughts for an incredibly unique lyrical and aesthetic concept.
“ghosts” is a gorgeous slow winding guitar ballad and a perfect example of how yeule can personalize their techno-horror vision. yeule’s lyrics being as personable and accessible as they are help make softscars such a compelling album. Not many artists can pour their heart out as well as yeule does on “cyber meat”, especially while maintaining their aesthetic and keeping the album tone consistent. Meanwhile, Grimes’ infatuation with living in a cyberpunk dystopia led her down the worst possible path personally and creatively – there’s no fucking chance Grimes outsourcing her music to techbros ends up with anything approaching the worst moments of yeule’s recent projects.
‘Can’t be on my own
Oh, oh, oh no thoughts, empty
I don’t think it’s healthy
Bite me, vampy
I taste just like candy
Why don’t I smile?
It’s just been a little whilе
Where do I end and bеgin?
Porcelain, cinnamon skin’
Describing the instrumentals on this thing reads like what you’d put into an AI generator – except they’re all executed to perfection in ways I’d never imagined possible instead of pure trash. “sulky baby” sounds like a late ’90s/early 2000s pop-rock throwback, done in Soccer Mommy’s winding cadence, delivered by a popstar from Blade Runner. And it’s amazing. The title track “softscars” has an assist from Mura Masa and the beat has what sounds like a glitched version of the snappy intro to Lorde’s “Royals” worked in. “v w x” is an electro-pop take on a noise rock track, with some Radiohead flair added as the instrumental rides.
Not many artists have started their careers off as promising as yeule has over their first five years with three can’t-miss albums and a number of killer EPs. softscars is one of the decade’s best albums, with some of the most stunning moments I’ve heard on an album this year, and this gem of an album moves yeule from one of the most interesting acts in electro-pop to simply one of the best acts in music right now.