tremble clef

Friday, May 18, 2007

Mr. Suitcase, "You Don't Smile Anymore" (2007)

Even though the new Mr. Suitcase single is, let's face it, essentially a rewrite of a song we know the band likes, it's still really, really terrific, melancholic electropop of the highest order.

Last we heard in any substantial way from Mr. Suitcase -- Stockholm musician (and former journalist) Billy Rimgard -- he had released an EP whose lead track was the promising "Ours Is A Time For Falling In Love". A clubby pop song tinged with philosophical remorse, "Ours Is A Time" however featured a vocal (from Örjan Lindbeck, from the now defunct Le Sport) that was its weakest aspect. Since then, Mr. Suitcase has been working more with Sanna Fischer, whose nuanced and coolly angelic voice better expresses the usually bittersweet lyrics.

One of Sanna's earlier appearance on a Mr. Suitcase track was on a cover of Everything But The Girl's "Lullaby of Clubland" (which you can download from the band's very generous website), and that's the track the new single owes quite a bit to: from the phat and round bounciness of its rubbery bassline, to the setting of its story in clubland, to the way both songs brilliantly utilize echoes (in the case of "Lullaby," we have Ben Watt's ghostly "no no oh oh oh" refrain). But if you're going to be influenced by a track, "Lullaby" is an amazing choice, and the resulting track is distinctive in its own way.

"You Don't Smile Anymore" is, in a sense, bookended by a question and the solution to that puzzle; but it is by no means an easy solution, and the song beautifully captures the heartbreak of having to arrive at it. The song begins with a vocoderized voice, forlornly asking: ""How did you get so far away?" Throughout the song, we hear that query, or variants of it ("How did we get here?" "How did I get here?") repeated over and over. The "here" refers to how the two lovers have grown apart; we don't have a clear sense of what she does, but the man she sings to seems to be a (Superpitcher-spinning) DJ, promoter or manager, who said he would "play [her] the next big thing." Alas, when she sees him at the DJ booth holding the hand of the very artist, she "knew right there...that everything had come to an end."

And so: "I'm letting you go." That line -- that painful solution -- does not, on paper, make for an especially hooky chorus, but it's nothing if not deeply haunting. On the original version of the song, it is echoed -- "I'm letting you go (let you go, let you go, let you go, let you go...)" -- variously by backing vocalists, the vocoders, or by Sanna herself. The effect is one of disbelief but, simultaneously, willed acceptance: with every echo, Sanna sounds like she can't quite bear to let go, even if each iteration steels and convinces her a little more. On the excellent Kopia remix of the song, the line continues to be echoed, but at several points, Sanna's last note is instead stretched and stretched: "I'm letting you goooooooooo..." The refusal to bite the end off that line might reflect an underlying hesitation to truly let go, but then again maybe it is best to permit "letting go" to happen gradually, for things to fade rather than end abruptly. Across the two versions, a simple line is therefore given a variety of inflections. Because, even when "letting go" is the painful, inevitable solution, there are still a number of ways -- perhaps not infinite, but it often feels like that -- to do so, and each brings with it a fresh hell.

(To download both the original and Kopia remix of "You Don't Smile Anymore," go to Mr. Suitcase's blog. And then head to Kitty Litter records, to pre-order the forthcoming Guidelines For An Emerging Century album.)


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