U.S. Girls’ Heavy Light is a testament to their writing strengths, despite being a mixed bag
On Heavy Light, Toronto band U.S. Girls continues to make provocative pop music, while taking an experimental trip through the genre’s past, touching on funk, psychedelia, motown and more.
Heavy Light starts out with a bang. The first two tracks “4 American Dollars” and “Overtime” are the strongest on the album. Both songs are incredibly groovy pop tunes highlighting major social issues, with the former discussing the false trappings of capitalist ideology and the latter speaking about alcoholism and being overworked and underpaid. This is U.S. Girls at their best, combining danceable beats with hard-hitting social commentary. Yet, sadly, this high isn’t quite preserved throughout the rest of the album.
The album contains three interludes, about a minute apiece, where voices share advice to their teenage selves, the most hurtful thing that’s ever been said to them and finally, the colour of their childhood bedroom. While these interludes certainly put the listener into U.S. Girls’ desired emotional state, they disrupt the flow of the album in a way that is too jarring to come back from.
The track “State House (It’s a Man’s World)” kicks off with a pitched-down reworking of the beat from “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes. Yet, unlike The Ronettes’ classic love song, U.S. Girls’ lyrics eerily discuss the role of women in society. In lyrics that sound as if they were lifted from The Handmaid’s Tale, front-woman Meg Remy sings, “But it’s a man’s world, we just breed here. We don’t have no say, we only bend.” While this song has a solid concept, it remains just that—a concept. Clocking in under two minutes, “State House” isn’t given the time to evolve into something more satisfying.
On Heavy Light, Remy’s energetic dance-pop tracks are worlds more exciting than her balladry. “And Yet It Moves / Y Se Mueve” is a highlight in the middle of the tracklist, with its Latin-inspired beat and psychedelic distortions. Contrasted to the slow-burners “IOU” and “Woodstock ‘99,” which are not nearly as gratifying.
The penultimate track, “The Quiver to the Bomb,” chronicles the birth of humanity to the climate crisis from the perspective of a “mother earth” type of character. The lyrics are downright scary and justifiably angry. In the second half of the song, the instrumental switches up to some vaguely prog-rock synth passages à la Pink Floyd, as Remy’s vocalizations become more and more desperate-sounding. This song should have been the closer, as “Red Ford Radio” doesn’t have nearly as much in the way of lyrical or instrumental intrigue.
Overall, while Heavy Light contains a few low-points, it is still a strong testament to U.S. Girls’ songwriting and conceptual abilities. In a time of mass uncertainty, corrupt leaders and failing systems of control, albums like Heavy Light seem more necessary than ever.
Trial Track: “4 American Dollars”