Album Review: U.S. Girls – ‘Heavy Light’

Posted: by The Editor

Since starting the project as a solo outfit in 2007, Meg Remy has transformed U.S. Girls into a full fledged band. Heavy Light, their most recent release, contains 15 musicians each adding a new layer of brilliance. Throughout her 7th release as U.S. Girls, Remy places spoken word collages: a series of interviews with the musicians featured on the album, asking them questions and letting them take as much time as needed to answer. The results create useful pauses that give the music a space to breathe while piquing the listener’s interest even further. Buried within the overlapping speech of “Advice to Teenage Self” is a little voice who wishes to tell her teenage self, “there’s lots of room to be many different ways”. This feels prescient, like an unofficial credo for an album as varied as it is engaging. 

Beginning with the cacophonic disco that is “4 American Dollars”, Remy places the album’s most upbeat moment at the forefront. It’s perhaps the most interesting pop song of the year so far, with instrumentation that feels like a perfect callback to the peak of disco and Remy’s vocals reminiscent of Kylie Minogue. A brushfire of a song, it builds quickly and keeps burning as Remy’s voice steps aside for a chorus of background vocalists to continue the chant of, “I don’t believe in pennies and nickels and dimes and dollars and pesos and pounds and rupees and yen and rubles, no dinero.”  

While no other moment on Heavy Light quite matches the mood of “4 American Dollars”, it has another subtle nod to the 1970s in the form of “Woodstock 99”. The track interpolates “Macarthur Park”, famously covered by the Queen of Disco herself, Donna Summer. The song is a gorgeous piano ballad touching on class inequality through the lens of watching footage of the notorious music festival on pay-per-view. Accompanied by the gorgeous choral harmonies of her backup singers, the song feels like the most striking example of how Heavy Light tinkers with modern classics to achieve something new and striking. 

A few songs into Heavy Light and its stylistic influences become apparent to the listener. The record is much more in the tradition of Motown and the girl groups of the 1960s than anything else being made in its peer group, and any doubt about it is assuaged as soon as we hear the beginning of “State House (It’s a Man’s World)”. The track begins with the famous drum pattern of “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes, which serves as the trellis for a much tonally darker thing to grow around. The wall of sound is not present; in its place a series of whirling chimes and discordant guitar careening out of control. Lyrically, Remy’s chorus of vocalists sing about the station they have as women in an unjust and patriarchal society and their fight against it. 

On the heartbreaking “Denise, Don’t Wait”, Remy cries out softly for help to come “Please, don’t wait / I’ve been sitting around here for days / And I don’t think I can make it / Another 24 hours”. Her emotional vocal performance would be impressive on its own, but when accompanied by a sparse arrangement of snares and castanets, it transcends, becoming something even greater.  

Heavy Light has a sense of self-awareness. It seems to know full well that it’s splashing around in the pool of music history, and acknowledges the responsibility that comes with that. It’s what allows it to feel as though it was dragged into the present day from the past where it feels like a bit of lost treasure. Homage is only really a compliment when perfectly executed.


Rating: Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal


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Eric Bennett //@seethingcoast