U.S. Girls – Half Free (sealed)
Half Free is the 4AD debut for Meg Remy‘s U.S. Girls project, and while the album maintains the accessibility and increased production values of her previous album, 2012’s Gem, it also revisits some of the tape loop experimentation and dark subject matter of her older works. The album credits ten people among its performing roster, including Canadian hip-hop producer Onakabazien (who co-produced U.S. Girls’ 2013 EP Free Advice Column) and Remy‘s husband Slim Twig, but the album’s crushed, grainy loops and collage-like construction make it feel less like the work of a live band than Gem did. Two of the tracks, including molasses-slow opener “Sororal Feelings,” are built around samples of obscure soul singles (not an uncommon sample in Remy‘s work), and most of the other songs retain a similar spirit. First single “Damn That Valley” is the clearest realization yet of Remy‘s offbeat pop vision, with a dubby bassline and ticking drum machine backing up her brassy, Ronnie Spector-like vocals, and a river of bizarre, subtle effects flowing underneath. “Sed Knife” (a remake of an older U.S. Girls song previously released as the B-side of a 2012 7″ single) is the album’s most straightforward rock song, combining heavy glam riffs with howling (albeit somewhat buried) saxophone. Perhaps the album’s most stunning moment is “Navy & Cream,” which marries the slowed-down Muzak aesthetic of vaporwave with Remy‘s clear, sweet vocals, resulting in a magnificently warped slow jam. Similarly, the album’s seven-minute finale “Woman’s Work” features gloriously hazy production and a pulsating synth bassline, as well as a fierce, dramatic vocal performance. Remy‘s lyrics focus on the harsh, unforgiving aspects of relationships, and the inclusion of “Telephone Play No. 1” (a phone conversation that jokingly touches on bizarre aspects of parent-child relationships) takes the album down a disturbing path. Overall, Half Free straddles a neat balance between bittersweet pop hooks and murky, adventurous production . Mint.
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