Smoke and mirrors might now be part of her revamped live setup but they also metaphorically symbolize the illusion of society. As a straight-talking antithesis to the envied glamorous, perfectly-sculptured and wealthy celebrities that glitter television screens, various shades of the realistic everyday woman are portrayed emotionally by Megan Remy in her character-driven U.S Girls album Half Free. Female victims of infidelity (‘Window Shades’), insecurity (‘Sororal Feelings), war-torn relationships (‘Damn That Valley’) and motherhood (‘Woman’s Work’) are connected together by their lack of freedom and represented by an empathetic spokeswoman with a generic all-inclusive moniker. Imagine a female equivalent to the recently-released Real Lies‘ ‘Real Life’.
Despite being relatively unknown and buddying up in the depths of Toronto’s music scene, this is U.S Girls’ sixth effort but one that is highly significant as Megan Remy’s half-free with her compositions. Rather than take control of every aspect of the project which is what you may expect from the mentality of a Graphic Design graduate, for the first time Remy gives an outside producer (Onakabazien) the responsibility of the beats – whilst the American-born musician focused on intellectualizing the lyrical content. Thankfully the lo-fi-art-pop production is just as distinctively Lynchian- haunting and turbulent – via the woozy and disjointed sonics that are located within a late sixties R&B and an early seventies glam-rock time warp. Assisted by the decade-hopping Remy-created music videos, it suggests that these universally-female thoughts are timeless and apply to any generation.
Although interlude ‘Telephone Play No.1’ is a simple conversation between two 20-something friends about awkwardness and appearance that’s content places it in the digital world. The climax suspiciously undermines its authenticity and contribution to US. Girls’ real-woman concept with a sitcom style laughing track during its climax.
‘Damn That Valley’ has its subtle political motivations added into the mix. Soldiers in the United States Armed Forces adopted the phrase during their residence in Afghan city Jalalabad as a summary of their tormented and sleepless experience of death. After discovering it in the celebrated Sebastian Junger chronicle War, Remy effectively uses the three words as a rageful curse said by the widowed wives of bloodshed. “Never got to say goodbye…” Already opinionated about the injustice of her previous home during interviews – Remy now lives in Toronto with her musical husband Max Turnbull– it’s no surprise that the song is accompanied by a promo where Remy punches the air in protest at patriotic American monuments. The song’s structure is appropriately ominous with multiple layers of dubby unease and Grimes vocal explorations.
Opener ‘Sororal Feelings’ was also inspired by literature, roughly based on Nora Bass, the wife of enigmatic jazz figure Boddy Bolden in the book Coming Through Slaughter and imagines how a woman would deal with the horrifying revelation that a husband engaged sexually with the wife’s sisters before settling with her. The reaction of self-destruction is represented in the suicidal line “Now I’m gonna hang myself from the family tree…” and in the B&W scratched-film video in which Remy cuts off the hair – demonstrating the bold lengths she will go for her art. Sticking with her mono, patient and suffocating wall of sound, obscure sounds penetrate the bashing bricks that resemble the state of being alarmed – did you hear a vibrating mobile phone?
Percussive 60’s Motown-edged ‘Window Shades’ is likewise about deception within a marriage and like its hypnotic gif-centric video, the song borrows elements from the past; ‘Deep Inside You’ by under-appreciated soul artist Gloria Ann Taylor. ‘Woman’s Work’ is appropriately the longest track at over 7-minutes documenting the never-ending balancing act of motherhood, using the phrase “a woman’s work is never done” as the basis for a theatrical Krautrock epic – in which Megan Remy’s Lykke Li-esque voice reaches furious Kate Bush levels of force. A true artist of feminist expression in an age sadly lacking in such artful role models.