And guess what? It turns out yeule is a very good rock star, a student of the game. In their youth, stifled by Singapore’s conservative society, they escaped into Smashing Pumpkins cassettes and bashed out Pixies songs as part of a band. They filled their 2021 covers album Nuclear War Post X with homespun takes on the Breeders, Big Thief, and the Velvet Underground, among others. When David Bowie died, a teenage yeule didn’t leave their room for a full week. That admiration resonates in their aesthetic bravado and alien otherness: They have cited Nintendo DS consoles and bottom-feeding deep-sea creatures as mood-board fodder for their ever-changing looks, which have recently hit upon a perfectly tattered midpoint between steampunk and cyberpunk, Max Max: Fury Road and The Matrix.
Bowie can also be heard in softscars’ walloping emotion and the way yeule gives voice to today’s outcasts—Ziggy Stardust’s Gen-Z grandkids, dismantling gender normativity in the face of heightened violence and prejudice. Mix all that with a dramatic self-loathing streak that Billy Corgan, Thom Yorke, or Gerard Way could appreciate, plus hints of Courtney Love’s confrontational spin on sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll, and even some of Avril Lavigne’s middle-finger insolence (yeule has called the famed mall-punk’s 2002 debut, Let Go, particularly formative), and you have someone who’s balling up decades of misfit energy into art that speaks to our uniquely AI-addled times.
Again and again, the album pulls off a delicate tightrope walk, balancing big, widespread feelings of modern disillusionment with harrowing personal details. On “software update,” a strung-out, meta power ballad that deserves to be met with a galaxy of swaying phone lights, yeule offers a micro autobiography that could work as a social-media bio for a blinkered generation. “25, traumatized, painting white on my eyes,” they sing sweetly, as if reading from a children’s book. “Handcuffs and hospitals are some things I despise.” The song references disordered eating, a condition that yeule still struggles with, along with white lines and grams, bruises and loss. It revolves around the idea of digital immortality. “When I leave my flesh, you can download my mind/And pick out the pretty parts for you,” they offer, lines that carry an extra heft considering that, as a lonely teenager existing mostly online, the idea of living on as a series of automated posts actually crossed yeule’s mind. “software update” crests with yeule’s version of an algorithmic arena-rock hook—“I love you baby,” they belt atop distorted guitar chimes, perhaps addressing their fans, their friends, their partner, themself, or all four.