When I visit my mom, she tells me that her eyes are “tired and they need to rest.” The music I play for her is loud, and the voices are low and mumbly, but she remarks that songs seem to be about love and missing someone.
The record I play is Where We Were Together, Say Sue Me’s second full length album. This four-piece brings their surfy collection from Busan, South Korea, the largest port town on the peninsula known for its beaches and seafood. Busan is known as Korea’s unassailably cool second city, whereas my mom’s home village is inland, nested between soft rolling hills and farmland. We’ve had the chance to visit her home and family twice in my lifetime, where my limited grasp on the language left me to practice my mom’s great talent of patience and careful listening.
Say Sue Me made strides with endlessly catchy lo-fi tunes sweetly sung in English, but Where We Were Together offers two glowing tracks sung in Korean. Their oceanside melodies quickly became an obsession of mine – one I’d channel into tenderly transcribed lyrics for Genius.
I ask my mom if she’s free one Sunday to help navigate though Say Sue Me’s Korean sung tracks, and we’re able to create a place between my enthusiastic, but less than conversational tongue, and her first introduction to indie rock. With some coaxing, I convince her to give the songs a try with my over-ear headphones because maybe then we’ll both be a little bit closer to finding the middle ground between us.
The album opens with “Let It Begin” which feels immediately nostalgic, a fuzzy slow stride into a time marked by uncertain growth. They express hearts learning to be apart from people who offer familiarity while becoming okay with moving along themselves. A love letter to a time and place that they’ve made their own. “Old Town” affirms this sentiment with the verses singing, “Everyone left this old fucking town, only I am going old with this town.”
Our listening session continues over barley tea and seafood pancakes as she tells me that “나와 나의 것 Ours” might be about lovers, but also friends. The song rings with an echoed reminder that “달콤한것들이 우리을 감싸네 sweet things surround us.” Its sugary young feelings stand in stark contrast with their instrumental track, “누군가의 과거가 될 용기에 대하여 About The Courage To Become Somebody’s Past”. They shake off their daydreams to ease the lingering in life transitions. I found that the translation of that title feels familiarly askew, like the first step off of a bus.
Often times, Say Sue Me’s songs give space to fully introduce a mood with just their instruments before adding vocals. The closing lullabye, “Coming To The End,” slides Sumi Choi’s voice in after over two minutes, then closes the final three minutes of the album with a screaming guitar to mirror their message of reluctantly leaning into change.
My mom tells me that the third single,”어떤 꿈 After Falling Asleep”, reads closer to ‘Some Kind of Dream’ which resonates with me more. Sitting together, we aren’t able to navigate the entire dreamscape, but the fragments we recover across the song feel reminiscent of when you grip onto the last moments of something warm and dear.
그날밤 꿈속에서 One night in a dream
이유를 알 것 같아요 I think I know why
모두가 어디로 Where is everybody
말을 해봐도 관찰해 을 까 It’s okay I tell you about everything
거기서봐요 I’ll see you there
She tells me that the songs are “nice, not too wild, like classic rock & roll” as she removed my headphones. We both aren’t ready for our visit to end so I take a familiar chair at the piano to play and her favorite recital song, “Für Elise.” I’m blessed with a new way to be close with my mom, learning to listen closely to the way she articulates passing feelings we haven’t discussed before.