U.S. Girls – Heavy Light (sealed)
U.S. Girls isn’t as much a band as an ever-mutating organism. Begun by experimental songwriter Meg Remy in the late 2000s as a noisy solo act backed by reel-to-reel tapes, the project grew into a monolith of larger-than-life pop. 2018’s In a Poem Unlimited was one of Remy‘s finest moments, with her polymathic songwriting bending disco-funk, glam rock, and ambient composition into new forms. Heavy Light expands on the colorful complexities of In a Poem Unlimited, with Remy dipping her toes in different styles on almost every song but retaining the experimental intensity that has always been at the core of U.S. Girls. Album opener “Four American Dollars” juxtaposes a light, summery soul instrumental with lyrics about destitution, poverty, and the inevitability of death. It’s one of several moments on the album where Remy is joined by a host of powerful backing vocalists, a technique that’s been flirted with on previous albums but is utilized to its fullest on these songs. This shows up in the form of girl group melodrama on eerie, beautiful songs like “IOU” and “Denise, Don’t Wait” and theatrical synth-heavy glam rock on “The Quiver to the Bomb.” The brief spoken interludes that showed up a few times on In a Poem Unlimited are swapped out here with several similar pieces, this time various voices stacked on top of each other answering survey questions about childhood memories. These interludes underscore themes of nostalgia and painfully looking back that become central to Heavy Light. “Woodstock ’99” mulls over a stream of melancholic younger memories over a syrupy lite rock instrumental borrowed from late-’60s AM radio hit “MacArthur Park.” Looking back also takes the form of several songs revisited from the U.S. Girls back catalog being reworked to various degrees of reinvention. Album standout “Overtime” takes on new life with the dramatic emphasis of newly added backing vocals, and album closer “Red Ford Radio,” originally a dark smear of distorted vocals and looped drums on 2010’s Go Grey, becomes a shockingly clear statement of fear and intensity. Remy takes a personal inventory throughout Heavy Light, sometimes contemplating the present but oftentimes remembering or returning to different threads from the past. It’s another huge step forward for the uncontainable U.S. Girls organism, one that skillfully combines the immediacy of personal memories with Remy‘s uncanny ability to inject her singular creative voice into every sound she touches. Mint.
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