Music Reviews
Heavy Light

U.S. Girls Heavy Light

(4AD) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

In less than forty minutes, Meg Remy’s U.S. Girls project reinterprets a vast slice of the American musical landscape all interlaid with Remy’s social concerns. Whereas 2018’s fractured disco masterpiece, In A Poem Unlimited, stuck primarily to the knitting of its genre, Heavy Light covers the waterfront. Opening track 4 American Dollars provides a link back to Poem, but it’s more of a jumping-off point than a continuation. Working with a group of no less than twenty studio musicians, Remy touches on elements of Hollywood musicals, R&B, salsa, and chamber music (to name a few), all while keeping issues of abuse, inequality, and the birth lottery front and center.

With its I Love The Night Life opening homage, 4 American Dollars blissfully lays waste to the notion “it’s not personal, it’s business” (perhaps the most idiotic phrase there is behind “there are no stupid questions”). What may be business to one can be damn personal to whoever’s on the receiving end. Or as Remy puts it, “You gotta have boots if you wanna lift those bootstraps.” Elsewhere, Remy riffs on MacArthur Park in the childhood reflection of Woodstock ’99 and Wooly Bully in a deeply obscure cover of Jack Name’s Born To Lose—the latter's given a brilliantly soulful read complete with backing singers and a vibraphone solo in a tale of the “take a ticket” randomness of coming into this world.

If this all seems a little heady and all over the board, it is. There is no doubt that it takes several cycles through the album for things to start to click. That’s if you find yourself willing to give in to the album’s concepts and approach. Poem was much more insidious in its sleekly delivered message, so much so that some may not even have noticed what Remy had on her mind no matter how many times they listened. Not ironically, here she uses a boomy timpani to deliver the messages of reworked pieces like State House (It’s a Man’s World) and Red Ford Radio straight to the listener’s ear. It will be interesting to see how Heavy Light is received. Given its scattershot approach, there's a chance that some won’t allow the repeated listens it deserves. The charms of tracks like the vocally forward IOU, that contend with staying a step ahead of your past, are well worth the commitment the album demands. And Remy’s vocals throughout are at her career-best.

Heavy Light is ambitious, grandiose, provocative, and, like Poem before it, still allows you to shake your ass in places if you want to. With voice-over snippets from the musicians about suffered indignities, where harmful words spoken to them as children are as remembered as the color of their rooms, Heavy Light is more overt with its message. And that’s how Remy wants it. For an artist that started about as bare-bones as you can get, her evolution to where she is today is something to behold. But at the end of the day, maybe the line from Born To Lose says it best: “There’s nothing in your way when you become a sound.” No matter how you get your message across in whatever style you choose, music can be the great leveler. Sound may travel slower than light, but thankfully we have artists like Remy to interpret what the light reveals to us.