U.S. Girls GEM Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

The work of an intriguing young artist still shaping a distinctive voice.

Louis Pattison 2012

U.S. Girls is the musical soubriquet of just one girl, and, in truth, one from a little north of the American border. Active since 2008, Toronto’s Meghan Remy has released a handful of albums to date, on reliably left-of-centre labels such as Siltbreeze and Chocolate Monk.

Much like her countrywoman Grimes, you can tell Remy has an ear for dance music and pop culture – how else do you explain her 2011 cover of RnB star Brandy’s The Boy Is Mine? – but chooses to swim in rather murkier waters. Lo-fi textures, tape hiss, distorted guitars, a voice rough like grit and wreathed in smoky echo – this is how Remy choses to create.

As with many lo-fi musicians, though, the career of U.S. Girls has seen a slow progression from cranky DIY experimentalism to a sort of self-taught virtuosity. On GEM, she’s working with a co-writer, Slim Twig, playing with a band assembled from the Toronto rock underground, and playing a music that would pass, on a good day, as pop.

Certainly, GEM intentionally evokes earlier musical eras in its attempt to trigger earworms. Slim Baby has a glammy feel recalling early Marc Bolan, Remy singing in an agreeably louche rock’n’roll drawl. Work From Home Jack – a “pro-prostitution” song, apparently - recalls Royal Trux’s boldest forays into 80s rock music, bright keys and sputtering drum machine winding towards a gorgeous coda.

Down in the Boondocks pastiches 50s pop right down to the doe-eyed romantic lyrics and the gum-chewing chorus. But, probably intentionally, it segues straight into a chattering piece of experimental tape manipulation winding together news broadcasts, found sounds and a voice saying “Rock’n’roll is as much an artform… as painting, or drama… or…” – and the rest is unintelligible.

What does it all mean? Remy says her goal is “to do something that pays homage to the things that I love in the past… but when you hear it, you know it’s from now”. GEM is far from a masterpiece, but it’s the work of an intriguing young artist still shaping a distinctive voice. It’s hard to know if the pleasure is in listening to it, or imagining where she might go next.

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