By Phil Scarisbrick
In 2018, U.S. Girls – the musical vehicle for songwriter Megan Remy – released the angry disco record, In a Poem Unlimited, to critical acclaim. The combination of aesthetically pleasing melodies and forthright, political lyrics made it a formidable LP that earned critical acclaim. Now returning two years later with its follow-up, Remy has expanded on what made that album great, and made one that is even better.
It would be very easy to listen to a lot of Heavy Light and largely ignore the words being sung. The music throughout the majority of the record is an absolute joy, and is enough of a hook in itself. The words though are important. Remy has always swayed between the political and personal, but this record seems more introspective than anything we’ve heard from her before. 4 American Dollars is an absolute barnstormer of an opener, evoking Bowie’s Young Americans with its over-the-top production and effortlessly infectious, looping chorus. A rejection of consumerism, it will be lodged in your brain instantly after even one play. Overtime continues with its predecessors exquisite use of group backing vocals, fleshing out Remy’s lead before being joined by the E Street Band’s Jake Clemons and his ailing saxophone.
The record has a series of spoken word segues that are no doubt important to the messages being conveyed, but at times feel like they disrupt the flow. That said, U.S. Girls albums have always felt more like art installations than simply collections of music, and these interludes are clearly another way for Remy to express herself. Born To Lose is a slow-burning, soulful number with Remy’s Patti Smithisms being supported by another effective group vocal. Other highlights include Woodstock ’99, which could slip neatly onto Jenny Lewis’ 2019 release On the Line, while Red Ford Radio combines a militaristic melody with a purely percussive backing to close out the record.
Having lived with this record for about a week, I wasn’t initially sure if my enthusiasm for it would wane on repeated listens. But quite the opposite, my fondness for it has turned into full-on adulation, and confirmed Megan Remy as brilliant, unique artist.
Secret Meeting score: 87