By Zac Richardson, Second Year Philosophy
On U.S. Girls’ seventh album, Heavy Light, producer and songwriter Meghan Remi trades her trademark lush pop experimentation for nostalgic soul instrumentals and socially charged lyricism.
The most obvious similarity to the group’s previous releases is Remi’s characteristic vocals, which bring to mind both Patti Smith and Stevie Nicks. On paper this makes a heavily soul-tinged US Girls release make sense. Unfortunately, the results are very mixed.
The gospel chorus tinged opening tracks, '4 American Dollars' and 'Overtime', set the thematic tone for the album, with Remi taking aim at the rat-race economy and the debilitating effect it has. With the exception of these tracks, nearly every song on Heavy Light seems to take on a different hot-button topic; from gender inequality (“State House (It’s a Man’s World)”) to misinformation and cultural repression (“And Yet It Moves/ Y se Mueve”). Furthermore, the album features three spoken word interludes in which Remi creates a sound collage of sorts from people sharing stories of childhood memories. On the whole this wide range of topics makes the album feel somewhat directionless, as it is clearly meant to be a deeply conceptual piece, but instead lacks any unifying message or subject matter.
Most of the instrumentals on the album take cues from gospel and soul, in addition to the orchestrated pop of Fiona Apple. This wide range of influences means the album is full of curveballs although despite this most of the instrumentals come off as much less colourful and alluring than those on US Girls’ previous records. For every highlight, such as the harrowing ballad 'IOU', Heavy Light has a song that aims high and falls short, such as 'Born to Lose'. The instrumental variation on the record isn’t as much of a problem for Heavy Light’s consistency as its thematic variation, but on the whole the album feels like a collection of loosely related ideas rather than one artistic statement.
As with all U.S. Girls' releases, Heavy Light is a captivating listen and Remi’s vocals certainly stand out, but the record is plagued by a few weak tracks and puzzling inconsistent storytelling.
Featured Image: US Girls/Heavy Light/4AD