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U.S. GIRLS Heavy Light gets 7.5/10


U.S. Girls

Heavy Light
4AD/Remote Control

7.5/10

U.S. Girls, the art-rock project by Toronto-based singer-songwriter Meghan Remy, takes a more pared-back approach on latest project Heavy Light. While still buoyed by Remy’s sheer talent and charm, it’s a bit too simplistic to be a must-listen.

The backbone of Remy’s music is her extraordinary voice, most immediately rooted to the sounds of 60s girl groups such as the Ronettes. The soul and funk influence is felt greater here than ever before, with most tracks featuring spare percussion and gospel backing vocals.

The album comes crashing out the gate with the two opening tracks. 4 American Dollars is a slice of classic 70s soul disco, driven by bongo percussion and strings. The melody is simple but soulful and the backing vocals addictive. The song’s lyrics are also great, a sarcastic evisceration of the whole ‘save money, don’t have smashed avocado’ ethos. You can do a lot with four American dollars, indeed. Overtime is a welcome contrast to the sonic opulence of the first track, a frantic slice of funk with more paranoid energy than anything we’ve heard from Remy before.

The deeper cuts play off this same soul/gospel vibe effectively, but generally slow the tempo. IOU is a great ballad, just sporadic piano strokes and Remy’s beautiful voice. And Yet It Moves / Y Se Mueve is a curious Latin number that’s still drenched in strings and funk atmosphere. And Denise, Don’t Wait is a moody ballad that builds on an interesting melody and some great xylophone work.

The rest of the material is all solid, with no stinkers in the lot. Still, the throwback sound loses steam after a while. All the remaining tracks establish a mood and play with a musical idea, like the chain gang chant of State House, the formless balladry of Woodstock ’99, or the forever-building The Quiver to the Bomb. The issue is that these are singular ideas in songs that could have used two or three more and then they would’ve been stellar. The pop dexterity found on her previous release In a Poem Unlimited is also sadly missing. While soul is obviously Remy’s forte, she can also do a mean Kylie Minogue impersonation, but none of that sugary pop goodness is to be found here.

This is, ultimately, a very solid soul/funk album. One gets the impression U.S. Girls won’t be delivering any subpar releases for a long time to come, but this still lacks the breadth of previous effort and modern classic In a Poem Unlimited. A requirement for any modern pop fan, but shy of Remy’s greatest.

MATIJA ZIVKOVIC

 

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