U.S. Girls

(Copyright © 2020 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
Introducing (2008), 5/10
Go Grey (2010), 5.5/10
On Kraak (2011), 6.5/10
Gem (2012), 6/10
Half Free (2015), 5.5/10
In a Poem Unlimited (2018), 6.5/10
Heavy Light (2020), 4.5/10
Bless This Mess (2023), 4/10

U.S. Girls Toronto-based Chicago-born singer-songwriter Meghan Uremovich (later Meghan Remy) debuted with a collection of lo-fi, droning and sometimes dissonant sketches, Introducing (SiltTees, 2008), with the haunting wordless ambience of National Anthem reminiscent of Grouper. The 28-minute mini-album Go Grey (Siltbreeze, 2010) continued in that vein. The distorted litany of Turnaround Time glides over a rhythm that becomes Indian along the way and then speeds up hysterically, while the hypnotic singsong Red Ford Radio relies on shamanic drumming. The album's weakest element is the dissonant instrumental interludes that still feel immature (despite the cute ambience of Summer of the Yellow Dress). On Kraak (2011) was a more accomplished affair, with a more polished sound. She still wastes time and energies on childish interludes like Sinkhole (the dissonant kind) and Si I Mean Oui (the melodic kind), but some of them are getting more interesting (like the spaced-out The Day After 4th July and the slow droning ambient Iran Then Iraqognized Her), but the songs range from a demented take on the girl-groups of the 1960s like State House to the witchy industrial pop Pamela + GG (the standout). There are also two relatively straightforward songs, one with the drum-machine (Island Song) and the other one is country lullaby (Peotone) plus a cover of Brandy and Monica's The Boy Is Mine.

No more miniatures on Gem (Fat Cat, 2012): no song is shorter than two minutes. Another Color finally weds her surreal instrumental interludes and her passion for the tender melodies of 1960s girl-groups, but still keeps them separate, but Work From Home truly fuses these two elements of her art in something that feels like a postmodern pastiche of Phil Spector's productions and Tamla's catchy soul music. On the other hand, the tedious litany Rosemary and the failed country-pop elegy North on 45 drag down the album, although this missteps are redeemed by the deliriously catchy boogie Slim Baby. Alas, there is still a little bit of childish filler, not to mention two useless covers (Brock Robinson's 1991 ballad Jack and Joe South's 1965 Down in the Boondocks).

The commercial, dancefloor conversion of Half Free (4AD, 2015) basically started a new career. Alas, the positively boring Sororal Feelings, gloomy synth-pop of New Age Thriller, the somnolent dirge Red Comes in Many Shades and the hazy ballad Navy & Cream all but annihilated her eccentric art. The notable exception is the disco-reggae Damn That Valley. She also coins a new genre with Window Shades and Woman's Work: vaporwave-influenced magniloquent Abba-esque disco-music. She certainly has a unique knack for annoying interludes and strange detours (the hard-rocking Sed Knife).

Now converted into a mysterious pop chanteuse, Uremovich indulged in moronic Steely Dan pop-soul-jazz on In a Poem Unlimited (2018), recorded with a funk-jazz combo: Velvet 4 Sale, L-Over and Rosebud (crooned with a voice that increasingly sounds like Donna Summer). Her post-Abba disco-music yields the feverish, polyrhythmic M.A.H. (an anti-war anthem sung in a voice reminiscent of Blondie), while her eccentric alter-ego explores 1950s dancehalls in the cover of Canadian singer-songwriter Simone "Fiver" Schmidt's Rage of Plastics. She is at her witchy best on the pounding and dissonant funk shuffle Incidental Boogie (sung in a Patsy Cline kind of tone over a percussive mayhem worthy of the Fleetwood Mac's Tusk), and she finds an unlikely balance of Talking Heads' funk hypnosis and Santana's Caribbean-jazz party in the eight-minute shuffle Time. Half of the album is her best yet, half is her worst.

Her songs used to be too short, but on Heavy Light (2020) they are too long, the Whitney Huston-ian ode IOU being a prime example. Past the energetic funky-gospel ballad 4 American Dollars (architected by Washington-based dance producer Rich Morel) and the tribal Talking Heads-ian Overtime (originally on the 2013 EP Free Advice Column and rearranged by Canadian folksinger and autoharp player Basia Bulat), the album becomes a parade of slow and mid-tempo elegies that at best achieve the minimalist hypnosis of The Quiver to the Bomb (another Morel creation, replete with an operatic refrain and proggy synth lines). The album includes a terrible version of her old State House and a terrible version of her old Red Ford Radio, perhaps a sign that she was running out of songs to complete the album. She boasts a more original, less girlish, voice, often with the counterpoint of gospel choirs, and the musicians are top-notch. What is missing is the inspiration: simple ideas are stretched out for four or five minutes without developing.

Bless This Mess (2023) is equally bland but with no song like 4 American Dollars to stand out.

(Copyright © 2020 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )