The Last Thing Left

Say Sue Me

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The Last Thing Left Review

by Tim Sendra

Ever since their drummer and close friend Semin Kang was injured in 2016, the Korean indie pop band Say Sue Me carried on with a palpable undercurrent of sadness in their music. He passed away before they began recording their third album, The Last Thing Left, and their feelings have only intensified. A large portion of the songs are dark, introspective looks at friendship, grief, and loss in which the pain is sometimes made clear in the lyrics or a melancholy melody, but it also seeps through whatever sunny hook or bouncy beat they try to bandage their feelings with. They do try to create some kind of balance between songs that are sure to have listeners reaching for something to staunch the flow or tears and those that have enough warmth to somehow rekindle the tiniest flame of hope. Take the album opener as an example of the former. A slowly unspooling instrumental "The Memory of the Time" cooks up tenderness through the interplay of the twanging guitars, each one seeming to tell the other a truly heartfelt and gut-wrenching story. It plays out beautifully over almost five minutes and sets the tone for what's to come. They follow it up with a chiming ballad "Still Here" that sounds like the saddest song Camera Obscura hasn't written yet and we're off to the races, destination anguish. Even the songs like "Around You" that bounce like dizzy kangaroos have lyrics that could bring down even the happiest of customers. The lightness of the arrangements helps to downplay the sadness just enough and the band never forgets that a bright melody is often the best delivery system for a dark lyric. Even when they dive headfirst into the gloom, as on the misty shoegaze ballad "Photo of You,'' they temper the gut punch with some '50s pop swing. They also realize that about halfway through, the listener might need a palette cleanser, so they insert the giddy rocker "No Real Place" to shake things up. Sure, it's not a happy song by any means, but at least one can do a little hopping around while they cry. Along with that pick-me-up, they end the record with the only bit of true happiness they feel ready to indulge in, the bouncy, piano-led, Nilsson-esque "George & Janice" a song they wrote to commemorate the nuptials of the heads of their label. It's a nice attempt to change the narrative at the last minute, but the main feeling that the album conveys is grief and emptiness, no matter how lovely or surfy or sweet. It's clear that they miss their friend and the pain of carrying on without him is crushing. That they manage to convey those feelings to the listener in such a pleasantly sweet fashion is a credit to them as a group and the album takes them from just another (albeit really good) chirpy indie pop band to one ready for the big leagues, sonically and emotionally.

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