Say Sue Me

Where We Were Together

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The South Korean indie pop band Say Sue Me's debut album is built on tragedy but ends up being an uplifting, heartwarming record sure to make hearts soar and nostalgic feelings for bands like Ride, Velocity Girl, and the Darling Buds flood the senses of anyone old enough to remember them (or savvy enough to discover them after the fact.) First, the tragedy. The band's original drummer, Kang Semin, suffered an accident in 2016 that left him in a coma with a long road to recovery ahead of him. The band derived inspiration from their love of their fallen friend, who functioned as the heart and soul of the band while he played with them. A few of the songs on Where We Were Together were written while Semin helmed the drums; the majority of the others were written about him. He can rest assured that the band did him proud and crafted a lovely album that touches on indie pop, dream pop, surf music, and shoegaze, all with equal skill and precision. Their approach can be gentle and sweet, with vocalist Sumi Choi delivering the sadly nostalgic words in a tender whisper and guitarist Kim Byungkyu strumming simply while also chiming out some great dream pop melodies on songs like "Funny and Cute," But I Like You," and "Here" that pass like puffy clouds on a summer day. They jump feet first into energetic crash pop on "Old Town" and "B Lover," showing off some nice, sassy attitude on the former and some nice, Cramps-y guitar riffs on the latter. They delve deep into dream pop dynamics, giving the pedals a workout on the quietly epic "After Falling Asleep," and Byungkyu shows off some impressive high-wire soloing at the end of the "Coming to the End," the dramatic ballad that ends the album in a haze of vibrating cymbals, frayed guitar strings, and spent emotion. The entire album is packed with emotion despite its sometimes smooth surfaces, even the poppiest tunes like the hip-swinging "Ours" or the slow, swaying "Let It Begin" sound like they have something important and real going on just below the surface. It's the same feeling the best dream pop and shoegaze bands -- Pale Saints, Slowdive, Black Tambourine -- evoked. It may be premature to lump Say Sue Me in with such legendary acts, but Where We Were Together is so undeniably good it's hard not to do just that.

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