On their third album, Nature of Things, the Singaporean quintet Subsonic Eye pivoted from their usual wide-eyed dream pop to a raw, earthier sound. Nature was frenetic yet loose, mixing the shaggy indie rock of Life Without Buildings and Pavement with snappy vocal melodies, frisky math-rock rhythms, and buzzy emo riffs. But while the band may have sounded vibrant, their outlook seemed downcast. Witnessing the destructive effects of urbanization had left them feeling cynical, even as they were making a conscious effort to explore the environment. They ended the album with a defeated sigh, the natural world slipping from their grasp.
Subsonic Eye’s latest album, All Around You, takes on a reinvigorated, more welcoming perspective. It’s set in the crowded cityscape, the hustle and bustle of urban sprawl reflected in the band’s rip-roaring guitars and whirlwind drumming. Their production is tighter and heftier; their hooks are sharper. Vocalist Nur Wahidah doesn’t sound overwhelmed, but hopeful as she surveys her surroundings and glimpses greenery. On “Everything,” she notices wildflowers growing out of car parks and waxes poetic about the sunrise: “Watching the gold bathe the birds/Bringing song into cities/Bringing luxury in our souls.”
Across the album, she’s self-assured and playful. She responds with cool-headed sass to the demands of a nine-to-five, like on the gleeful, hooky “J-O-B” or the scuzzy “Machine,” where her mocking observations on being a corporate cog get swallowed by an exhilarating guitar solo. Bandmates Daniel Borces and Jared Lim act as strong complements to her lead. On the skittish opener “Performative,” Borces lights her flippant narration of political activism—“Signing petitions, charging laptops, separating causes from ourselves”—up with a sublime riff, shaking off the song’s creeping malaise. Elsewhere, the pair’s textured performances lend warmth to Subsonic Eye’s boisterous noise pop: Their bright guitar tones have an electrifying glint, while the reverb-heavy, shoegaze fuzz conjures the prickling sensation of sunlight on skin.
Subsonic Eye are at their most urgent and heartfelt on “Yearning,” the explosive climax of All Around You. With thrashing guitars and hammered drums, the song explores the heat of desire. As the guitars cool to a rolling swell, Wahidah finds comfort in an affectionate embrace: “You woke me from my slumber, I fall down on my knees/Basking in your warm light, it’s how I came to be,” she sings, still searching for the natural even in the arms of another. She nudges forward, driven by her hunger for contact, but it's the surge of the band that pushes her through. Even when her optimism falters, they’re a supportive backing. All Around You proves that connection—to nature, to a lover—can be a profoundly potent force.
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