A line from ‘Spiral’, a track off ‘Nature Of Things’, perfectly described 2020 for a lot of us all around the world: “I’m watching forecasts / Thumbing my knees / Wishing for better luck”. Most of us can agree we were happy to see it behind us.
Whether 2021 will bring “better luck” remains to be seen, but the year has already brought an excellent new Subsonic Eye record. The Singaporean band certainly haven’t just been sitting around “thumbing their knees”, this being their third full-length album since their debut ‘Strawberry Feels’ in 2017 (the band even managed to squeeze in an acoustic EP last year).
2020 altered everyone’s lives in various ways and it appears to have influenced the dream pop band’s sound. There is a sense that Subsonic Eye have had to unlearn many of their habits from the first two albums here, wiping away the dreamy aesthetics of those records for rawer sound. The band has largely also resisted the compulsion to go sonically widescreen on ‘Nature Of Things’ – sad news for lovers of ‘Stranded’ off their sophomore record ‘Dive Into’.
The quirky pop musings of Greta Cline to the bombastic emo of The Anniversary may seem like different streams, but Subsonic Eye have managed to comfortably merge them both into a coherent, delectable sound. The ‘new sound’ on the record, with its choppy guitar riffs interspersed with melodic pickings backed by a restless rhythm section, sound unmistakeably like Midwest emo: the same kind peddled by the genre’s mainstays such as The Promise Ring, Braid and the aforementioned The Anniversary back in the early 2000s.
Thankfully the band avoid the more regrettable trappings of the genre, preferring spikier commentary to weepy lyricism: On ‘Fruitcake’, vocalist Nur Wahidah sings, “She’s some trouble / Nailed to people / Can’t break out again / I don’t see the point.” They also provide somewhat jaded commentary on the world, most notably on closing track ‘Unearth’: “Caged me in isolation / Carved into me,” she sings, before jadedly concluding, “Thought you’d care / About the world / But you don’t mind.” Just when you think things are getting a little too ‘emo’, their ode to guitarist Daniel Castro Borces’ cat Kaka and its ordeal at the vet brings balance with some needed dark humour.
The true beauty of ‘Nature Of Things’ is how the band have managed to seamlessly synthesise their newfound joy for angular chording and rhythms with catchy indie pop songcraft. ‘Animinimism’ is a perfect example. Starting off with some sweet jangly chords, it gradually builds into a crescendo of screeching discordant guitars on the bridge, its parts zipping in and out without repeating. And while this flies in the face of everything pop songwriting is, Subsonic Eye have managed to make each of these unique sections such an integral part of the song that they never seem out of place.
The band have described this record as ‘a bold step forward’. ‘Nature Of Things’ definitely stretches the imagination as to what Subsonic Eye’s ‘sound’ is and can be. At the same time, it also opens new doors for the band sonically. This is a record by a band at the height of their creative prowess, unperturbed by trying new things and managing to deliver compelling music along the way.
- Release date: January 15
- Record label: Middle Class Cigars