U.S. Girls: Heavy Light (4AD) - Review | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, October 6th, 2022  

Heavy Light

4AD

Mar 05, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


For the better part of a decade, Meg Remy’s U.S. Girls has been expanding and shifting. Her original self-produced tape experiments under the name bear little resemblance to the disco pop found in 2018’s critically acclaimed In a Poem Unlimited. Her latest album, Heavy Light, continues to broaden her musical boundaries, but with an introspective eye towards her past 10 years under the U.S. Girls name. The album features re-recorded versions of previous songs, spoken word recollections of childhood, and examinations of how we remember the past. Remy and her collaborators unite these ruminations under beautiful instrumentals that pull from disco, chamber pop, and soul.

The record was recorded live with nearly 20 session musicians. Similar to In a Poem Unlimited, it feels constructed with meticulous intention and a collaborative spirit. The live recording retains an organic core throughout, which is bolstered by the acoustic instrumentation. These collaborators create some of the album’s best moments. On many songs, Remy is the main voice backed by beautiful harmonies. The driving drum beat, chanted vocals, and fiery saxophone solo on “Overtime” lend the song a kinetic force. The strings that come in on the back half of “IOU” also do a great job of elevating the dramatic piano ballad.

In a Poem Unlimited often turned Remy’s gaze to the world around her, examining sexual violence, exploitation, even the presidency of Barack Obama. Heavy Light, in comparison, draws less from this outward anger and instead takes a meditative examination of memory and retrospection. “Woodstock ‘99” is one of the most effective examples of this theme on the album. Remy contrasts her experiences of the titular event with those of a friend and reflects on how the passage of time has changed their lives. The album is also filled out with spoken word collages where the album’s backup singers are interviewed on their childhood experiences. These tracks act as transitional moments in the album while also adding to its thematic structure and showing the diverse experiences behind the album’s collaborators.

Despite the turn inward, Remy is no less critical of existing power structures. U.S. Girls has long been a deeply political project and the opener, “4 American Dollars,” shows that this is no different on Heavy Light. The song packages a biting critique of American greed within one of the catchiest grooves on the album. Remy sings “No matter how much/You get to have/You will still die/And that’s the only thing/You gotta have boots/If you wanna lift those bootstraps.” Later in the album “State House (It’s a Man’s World)” offers a stately choral update on Remy’s Ronnettes inspired original. These reimagined tracks sound cleaner than the originals but no less powerful or idiosyncratic.

Meg Remy has been incredibly consistent under the U.S. Girls name. In a Poem Unlimited certainly boosted the project’s profile but Remy’s talent for forward-thinking art pop has been on display for years. It is fitting then, that after the career height of her previous album she takes the chance to engage with the passage of time and retrospection. Her ability for reinvention is once again on full display, even more so with the updates on her previous work. Beyond the artful execution of the conceptual core of the record, Remy has once again constructed a vibrant and moving album. Heavy Light both reflects back on her previous work and stands among the best of it. (www.yousgirls.blogspot.com)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10



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