yelue - softscars
Updated: Oct 3
i must admit i wasn't fully convinced by Yeule, the SG-born, UK-based artist, when their previous album Glitch Princess (2022) brought them to prominence. i loved the Pixies-like hold-and-release dynamic of "Electric" (why it was never a single is beyond me), and the simple joy of "Don't Be So Hard on Your Own Beauty" (along with its inventive video), but the album as a whole lacked cohesion and solid substance. it left me distracted by their style, naming (after the Final Fantasy character), and Japanese presentation and online image, wondering if they were simply marketing gimmicks. were they another Gen-Z Asian who overcompensates for their only feasible identity in Western centres of power?
softscars (2023), their new album, corrects my misimpression, and then some. the 25-year-old Yeule (also a variation of Natasha Yelin Chang's Chinese name) has crafted a seemingly effortless, catchy, and multicoloured diary (or whatever kids call it nowadays), full of bodily fluids, healing, and ethereal happiness, an insight into what it must be like to be young nowadays. impatient with the very notion of genres, softscars Ctrl-Tabs from singer-songwriter territory to cyber glitch to L'Arc-en-Ciel-type stadium rock to ambient piano balladry. Chang, who also goes by Nat Ćmiel, lets you in, at a remove, into their hard-won fight for happiness. i'm surprised how a 1990s baby read my diary, with lyrics like "Only eyes like yours can see ghosts / Ghosts like me", "Some days I can't believe that I'm still here" and "I would still love you / Ten thousand years from now"; and distilled and transmuted such teenage sentiments into well-earned joy and release.
take "software update", for example: after a burst of guitars (she's an expressive player), a generation-defining line like "You're never alone / I'm inside your phone" is crooned, before her baby voice is transformed back and forth between digital territories. the guitars bloom into an expansive moor, and the most cliched of lines, "I love you, baby", somehow is delivered in a so particular and anti-Julie Andrews manner: "Twenty-five, traumatized / Painting white on my eyes / Handcuffs and hospitals / Are some things I despise".
i've been thinking of softscars in relation to another document of youth, Anthony Chen's The Breaking Ice (2023), whose film composer, Kin Leonn, happily, is a producer of Yeule's album. i can't imagine what it is like to be young now. i can't begin to imagine what it is like to have your body rebel against yourself in an age of "Technofeudalism" (Varoufakis), when Summer 2023 was the hottest-ever on record, when you're so poor and worse off than your parents and robots are really taking over, and it's so holistically hopeless to even begin to try. but i'm permeated with hope listening to softscars: whatever the relative challenges, what pure joy; what complete release! truly "Electric", it's fun that is cognisant; not end-times fun, but a type of resistance to doomism that a boomer like me feeds on, like a vampire, of unbroken, youthful, never-ending time.