Busan, South Korea’s Say Sue Me gained an international following with the release of Where We Were Together (2018), though the band had established themselves at home before that. Their first album, We’ve Sobered Up (2014), was followed by the EP Big Summer Night (2015) on the Korean label Electric Muse. UK-based Damnably Records released a self-titled compilation of their first record and EP in 2017.
Sadly, tragedy struck while the band recorded Where We Were Together. Say Sue Me’s original drummer, Semin Kang, suffered a fall and went into a coma. Several months later, Kang passed away. As if that wasn’t enough, the global pandemic struck, but these setbacks still didn’t stop Say Sue Me’s momentum. In February of 2019, Say Sue Me were nominated for several Korean Music Awards, up against Korean megastar boyband BTS. Say Sue Me’s album took home two awards: Best Modern Rock Album and Best Modern Rock single for “Old Town”.
In March 2020, they became the first Korean band ever to perform a live set on KEXP in Seattle and managed to self-record and produce their latest album, The Last Thing Left. With the new release, Say Sue Me gives us a glimpse into more contemplative music while still retaining their signature shoegaze-meets-surf-rock sound.
The Last Thing Left begins with an instrumental called “The Memory of the Time” that layers track upon track of electric guitar. Acoustic guitar, bass, piano, and drums come in shortly after the two-minute mark to fill out the track. It’s a quiet introduction for Say Sue Me, but it speaks to where they’ve found themselves in the past few years.
Stand-out tracks, which were previously released as singles with quirky videos, are “To Dream” and “Around You”. “To Dream” is the album’s only Korean-language track and is quite possibly the finest on the album. The song taps into the sound of early shoegaze bands like Slowdive and the Cocteau Twins. It also shows off Byungkyu Kim’s dazzling work as lead guitarist and the ethereal yet understated vocals of singer Sumi Choi.
In comparison, “Around You” is a jaunty, upbeat track with juxtaposed lyrics that speak to isolation during the pandemic: “Hard to find some reason to get out of here / There isn’t any good news / I’m getting far from my youth / I don’t know, but time stopped in my room / And my mind has no more room / I’m just missing what I liked.” “Around You” is reminiscent of Scottish bands Belle and Sebastian and Camera Obscura, particularly the title track of their 2006 album Let’s Get Out of the Country which also imagines some sort of escape.
If fans are hoping to hear something similar to Say Sue Me’s earlier work, “No Real Place” is the real place to find it. It highlights the band’s reverb-driven sound and is one of the most spirited tracks on the album.
Whether Say Sue Me are surf-rock, shoegaze, or dream-pop, none of these categories really seem to matter when listening to them. They are simply terrific to listen to and always seems to be what they are – without frills or pretension. The Last Thing Left, from start to finish, is sure to be remembered as one of Say Sue Me’s very finest.