Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: U.S. Girls – Heavy Light

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.

Rating: 7/10

Trial Track: “4 American Dollars”


Dancing to the downfall of capitalism

U.S. Girls put on high energy and politically conscious show at Le Ministère

On Feb. 16, excited music fans packed into Le Ministère on Boulevard Saint Laurent to see Canadian experimental pop artist U.S. Girls, aka Meg Remy.

Local artist Lune très belle opened the show. Through her set, her French vocals were echoed as she bounced between two mics in front of her, one over her keyboard and the other over her synthesizer.

Lune très belle’s songs were sparse and pretty. This was matched by her quiet and seemingly timid stage demeanour. She didn’t have much candour with the audience, and the set felt more like an improvised recital than your typical concert affair.

After a short intermission, Remy’s band took to the stage. Band members entered one at a time. First, high synths filled the room, next the drummer kicked in, playing a few bars before the background vocalists took the stage and began to sing. Finally, Remy entered the stage and jumped into her brand new single “4 American Dollars,” a song about the failure of the American dream.  

After a few songs, Remy stopped to chat with the crowd. She mentioned that the last time she played in Montreal, it was at a porn theatre (Cinema L’Amour). She went on to ask how the cops in Montreal were, a question that was not surprising considering Remy’s heavily leftist, political lyrics. The audience gave a decidedly negative response to her question. Remy responded, in a sarcastic manner, that even cops were babies once, and we should try to foster conversation. This tongue-in-cheek comment ended with her saying, “I think they’re crying out for help with their occupation—same with me.”

After a few low-key songs, Remy picked the energy back up with the swanky and danceable “Pearly Gates,” a song whose lyrics reference the #metoo era. This song got the audience moving and really showed off Remy’s infectious stage presence.

Near the end of the show, Remy stood at the centre mic in silence for a few moments and then asked the audience to pretend their head was being pulled up by a string in order to stand up straight. She then asked us to breathe deeply. Everyone in Le Ministère stood for the next few long moments in silent breathing meditation, before the band jumped into the next song. 

For the finale, all the musicians left the stage except Remy and one vocalist to perform the 2010 song “Red Ford Radio.” The two started centre-stage, singing directly to each other. They started to repeat the lyrics, “I’d do anything to get out.”  As they continued to sing those lyrics, they both dropped their mics, and the audience started chanting along with them. They proceeded to join the crowd as everyone sang in unison. After circling through the crowd, Remy and the vocalist sang one final “I’d do anything to get out,” as they exited through the stage door.

While U.S. Girls’ show was short, clocking in at only around an hour, it was high in the energy and charisma that matches her recorded material. Overall, U.S. Girls played a tight set that was artfully arranged. Years-long fan or newcomer, this show would make anyone fall in love with Meg Remy. 

Photos by Britanny Clarke.


Concert Calendar

Here’s a guide to the best shows in town this April

Yaeji – April 5 @ Phi Centre

Kathy Yaeji Lee is a 24-year-old DJ from New York, who makes minimalist club music that pays equal respect to the sounds of deep house and K-Pop. Minutes after the announcement of her latest tour in support of 2018’s EP and EP2, the Montreal show sold out in no time. If you were one of the lucky few to score tickets, consider yourself very lucky.

U.S. Girls – April 11 @ l’Escogriffe Bar

U.S. Girls’ Meghan Remy is heading on tour in support of her exquisite album, In A Poem Unlimited. The album is a complex synthesis of bold narrative and downright excellent music that draws influence from disco all the way to post-punk. Remy is a storytelling savant, tackling topics from the state of democracy to personal meditations on sex and representation. This is a must see show, to say the least.

Jeff Tweedy – April 12 @ Corona Theatre

Wilco’s legendary Jeff Tweedy is stopping by the Corona to perform acoustic reworkings of his best songs, solo and with Wilco. So if you’re a fan of artisanal beer, beards and balladry, stop by to hear the best rebellious songs of your teenage years.

Machine Girl – April 27 @ TBA

Machine Girl is bringing their abrasive industrial sonics to an unknown Montreal venue. Combining elements of harsh noise and scream, Machine Girl is a force to be reckoned with, comparable to similar acclaimed acts such as Death Grips and JPEGMafia. The band’s approach to noise and industrial is much more punishing than their contemporaries. I advise you bring earplugs.

Soccer Mommy – April 29 @ Quai des Brumes

Soccer Mommy’s latest album, Clean, is a package of delicate acoustic balladry and pained lyrics about the pitfalls of early adulthood. In support of the album, they will be performing right at the tail end of the month.

No Age – April 29 @ Bar Le Ritz

No Age’s dreamy punk soundscapes have been making waves across music blogs for well over a decade. It has been four years since the band graced the world with a new record, that was until the band dropped Snares Like A Haircut this year. The album doesn’t alter the typical No Age blueprint, but as they say, if it ain’t broke.

Music Quickspins

U.S. Girls – In a Poem Unlimited

U.S. Girls – In a Poem Unlimited (4AD) *Editor’s pick

Meg Remy’s approach to music, an idiosyncratic mix of post-punk fury and sultry pop-rock, finally takes shape on her fantastic new album. In a Poem Unlimited is the sound of frustration taking form in a vacuum of pensive meditations. “You’ve been sleeping with one eye open because he always could come back, ya know?” she sings on “Velvet 4 Sale.” This is channelled through a near-transcendental level of lyrical observation. The music shines with the spirit of disco-leaning pop idols like ABBA and Cyndi Lauper, while churning out lyrics informed by skepticism and the delegation of male authority. But these nods act as an aesthetic backdrop to Remy’s more complex compositional ideas. “Time,” the album’s thrilling seven-minute epic, hurls forward an impetus of screeching sax and post-punk dance beats; Remy’s vocals are absolutely commanding among them. The album rages with a cathartic force, pleading for change in a world that refuses to.

Rating: 8.8/10

Trial Track: “Rosebud”

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