“I didn't feel like being introspective,” says Laetitia Tamko of her playful and adventurous new album Sorry I Haven’t Called. “I just wanted to have fun.” As Vagabon, Tamko is no stranger to reinvention. Following her intimate 2017 debut Infinite Worlds, the New York artist favored expansive and evocative electronic textures in her breakthrough 2019 self-titled follow-up. But her latest LP, which is out September 15 via Nonesuch, feels like a wholly new era for Tamko, one that’s transformational and uncompromising. Across 12 vibrant tracks she wrote and produced primarily in Germany, she channels dance music and effervescent pop through her own confident sensibilities. These conservational songs are alive and unselfconscious, a document of an artist fully embracing her vision and reclaiming her joy.
The story of Sorry I Haven’t Called started in grief after her best friend died in 2021. This devastating and unexpected loss unmoored Tamko but also gave her a newfound clarity. “The things that I thought I cared about, I no longer cared about,” she says. “I had a realization that I need to make sure to feel everything that comes my way.” She decided to sell her things and move to a small lakeside village a few hours north of Hamburg in northern Germany to process everything. “There's no linear path to grief, and everyone handles it differently, but uprooting my life just felt like exactly what I had to do, ” says Tamko. “I needed a place to think and go through my discomfort privately but to also explore the newness and urgency I was feeling in my life.” In the village, her phone didn’t work and there were no close grocery stores or restaurants, so she spent her time alone working on music.
Despite the palpable absence in her life, her new songs were her most disarming and ebullient yet. The first one she wrote was “Carpenter,” a mesmerizing track anchored by a tangible bass groove, where she sings, “I wasn’t ready to move on out / but I'm more ready now.” It’s a fully-realized track and feels like the culmination of her catalog so far. “A lot of the music that I was making there had nothing to do with my grief at all,” says Tamko. “Once I gave myself permission to make a record that's full of life and energy, I realized that’s the point of this album. In the midst of going through all of these tough things, it became a record because of the vitality that these songs had.” For Tamko, there’s power in pursuing happiness.
While writing in Germany, Tamko nurtured her love for dance music and let it seep into her new songs. “The only things that were giving me access to a feeling were dance music and going to a rave in an extremely dark club where if I wanted to cry, I could do it and be around other people,” she says. Songs like “You Know How” boast a propulsive house arrangement while “Do Your Worst” combines dancefloor euphoria, breakneck-paced jungle beats, and a DJ’s sense of pacing through lucid storytelling. She sings on one of the LP’s most memorable choruses, “You turn me into someone I don’t fuck with / I don’t like myself when I’m with you / frequency so low when you are present / take me to a place where I feel high.”