When you think of where dreamy shoegaze music comes from, South Korea might not be in your shortlist but it should be. For their latest release, Busan’s Say Sue Me delivers music that not only captures the spirit of American dream-pop, but brings in their own experimentation to make an album worth hearing. While they can stretch songs too far in places or be too derivative in others, the album is overall one that will make your day.
A wash of dreamy surf-rock opens the album on “Let It Begin” as they slowly bring in a raw mix of distortion and feedback against their shoegaze base. Though they often really stretch their songs out and leave things almost too sleepy, they bring something special when they step away from being a simple pastiche. “But I Like You” really stands out for this exact reason as it blends tones of Alvvays and Veronica Falls into something delightfully emotional and pop. They lean wholeheartedly into their solo as well, which turns into a rhythmic flurry that stands well on its own.
In a rush of guitars and drums “Old Town” blends parts of Fazerdaze into the mix while Say Sue Me keep their writing a little more unpredictable and their riffs a little weird. Along with its more emotive playing, the song also features a wonderful display of layer as every few seconds something seems to be added or subtracted from their vicious mix. “Ours” switches into the band’s native Korean for a synth-heavy track about love, with the mesmerizing sounds to match. As cheesy as the song can sound, they bring in some truly surprising guitar drops at times to shake things up.
“Funny and Cute” lulls listeners in for a warm and soft track, and one that favours tenderness over being frantic. Though it just doesn’t match the heights of the rest of the album, it certainly will be perfect for rainy days inside. It’s almost comical how much Say Sue Me ramps things up on “I Just Wanna Dance” as they shred and create exciting dance rock without inhibitions. Straight and to the point, the track sticks to simple fun to make its short playtime feel worthwhile.
The aggression behind “B Lover” is a battle cry compared to the rest of the album, and lets its pop feel like another call to action. Hearing the band twist their tight playing into something so raucous really twists things in the best possible way to make the song standout. All the washes of synths on “After Feeling Asleep” quickly turn the song into an enveloping sonic journey. The clever pop melodies and detailed productions really show how well the track could do as a single if they ever translate to English.
A jazzy energy overtakes “Here” as they create a sunny and wet energy between their soft drumming and harmonies. Though it never has a big dynamic shift, there’s something absolutely lovely about the track’s sway of relaxing tones. “About The Courage To Become Somebody’s Past” takes an abrasive touch to the band’s retro-pop energy and whips out an interlude that’s quite the surprise. While it really stretches things out too much there’s a heartbreaking emotion behind “Coming To The End” and one that makes its soaring bridge so satisfying. By using their dynamics in such a brutal and primal way, the track really cracks open into this moment of unbridled fury powerfully.
Words by Owen Maxwell