If you only listen to one song tonight. make it “Old Town” by Say Sue Me (2018, from the forthcoming album Where We Were Together)
Say Sue Me is an indie pop/twee/cuddlepunk/surfgaze quartet from Busan, South Korea. I don’t know anything about them other than that they formed in 2012, released an album called We’ve Sobered Up, and they released a Record Store Day EP called Semin last year. It’s my understanding that the EP was named as a tribute to the band’s drummer Kang Semin, who is in a coma. It is not, thankfully, a tribute to former NHLer Alexander Semin, whose career trajectory went very rapidly from “elite player” to “bum” almost overnight during his tenure in Carolina.
I had never heard of the band until I was doing some research today. I sort of randomly ended up on this song, and I really love it. It reminds me of the gloriously gloomy but bouncy twee-pop of Camera Obscura and The Concretes mixed with something like Veronica Falls. I love it.
“Old Town” by Say Sue Me
It’s a song about growing tired and growing old in a town where everyone else is leaving. The hero of the story wants to leave and also wants to stay. There’s not much to the lyrics, which are in perfect English, but there’s a lot to the melody and the big hook. There’s a bit after the second chorus with some hand claps and vocalizing. It’s magnificent, and there’s no way you can have a frown on your face while listening.
I’ve just listened a bunch of times in a row, and it keeps getting better.
Where We Were Together will be released on April 13. You can pre-order it via Bandcamp here, and enjoy an immediate download of “Old Town”.
If you only listen to one song today, make it “Keep It Clean” by Camera Obscura (2003, from the album Underachievers Please Try Harder).
Camera Obscura is an indie pop band from Glasgow, who issued their debut record in 2001 and have added three more since then. The six-piece band is sometimes compared to fellow Glaswegian band Belle & Sebastian. Their overall sound is similar to that of Belle and Sebastian, and they have a similar approach to using non-rock instruments like horns and such. Both bands have enjoyed flavour of the month status, but Belle and Sebastian have enjoyed much more commercial success.
I don’t remember when I first heard Camera Obscura, but I do remember that they were, and today’s song was responsible for helping me keep my sanity (or at least a semblance of it) during a very chaotic time. I helped open a new restaurant back in 2004, and I worked 100 hours in the first week. It sounds like hyperbole, but it’s true. I logged 100 hours and another manager logged 105. We were both completely worn out by the end of that week and while I wouldn’t exactly say that I was suicidal, my spirits were very low.
Every night of that week when I finally got home, I’d shower, drink a beer and listen to Underachievers Please Try Harder, then squeeze in about five hours of sleep before doing it all over again. It soothed me. It made me feel better, even if only for 53 minutes. The truth of it is, actually, that I usually didn’t make it all the way to the end of the album. “Side 1” of the album is so good. The first two songs are so good to me that I think I’d just listen to “Suspended from Class” and “Keep it Clean” over and over.
Here’s today’s song: “Keep it Clean” by Camera Obscura
It’s about two people who are secretly in love with each other, but they’re doing that thing where they pretend to hate each other in public. It’s weird and twisted. And it’s real. I love it.
Right out of the gates, we see the “I hate you, you hate me” part:
Does it make you happy to ignore me on streets?
I guess by now you think I’m weak
I wish you would have said something before now
I wouldn’t share a bag of chips with you
In my opinion you don’t have a clue
I’m being cruel
And then that’s followed by the chorus, which is a bit of a softer stance. It’s more like “you’re probably bad news for me. If I had the chance, I’d consider it, but I’d pass on the option to be with you”.
I don’t want to be part of your scene
I’ll stay with him
I’ll keep my nose clean
And then it goes to a stance that’s more like “I kinda like hanging around you, and it hurts my feelings that you don’t want me”. Then, finally, it gets to the meat of the song. There’s a musical break after the second chorus. And then there’s this:
I thought it was me you couldn’t stand
You’ve taken to phoning my house when you’re drunk
And then confessing all your love
I wish you would have said so
She’s saying “You’re a knucklehead. It’s awesome that you’ve proclaimed your love for me. Unfortunately, you’re too late because I’m with somebody else. I waited and waited, and I got tired of waiting. Knucklehead.”
As much as I like that story line, I love the second verse, where Carey Lander’s delicate keyboard part comes in. And when that pivotal part comes in the third verse with that stuff about the drunk dialing, Tracyanne Campbell sings that section a half octave or so higher than the rest of the song. If I’m honest, I never noticed that aspect before. I don’t know what it means, but it must mean something.
So there you have my favorite bits of the song. And where else are you going to get a line like this?
How bout I sent you a book on nutrition
Stop spoon-feeding me non-fiction
Buy Underachievers Please Try Harder in the format of your choosing from the Merge Records web store here.