[sic] Magazine

U.S. Girls – Half Free

When Meg Remy speaks it pays to listen. The poppy beats and loops of her Half Free will play quite unobtrusively if you let them, but engage with the album personally on even a single level and its emotional heft may well leave you smarting. No doubt Remy has come a long way from her scratchy, art-noise days and is now making important experimental pop with a message. Continuing where the shimmering Gem left off in 2012, Half Free is a no-holds-barred account of what it is to be a woman in a today’s society. Subjects as wide-ranging as liberty, fractious families, war widows, low self-esteem and abusive relationships are all tackled from a strong feminine viewpoint.

Less weird than the similarly styled Jenny Hval and not as cutesy as Grimes, Remy opens with a devastating one-two, the gently lolloping “Sororal Feelings” hinging on her threat to “hang myself from my family tree”, while the undulating dub of lead single “Damn That Valley” tells of the futility of war disguised as three-minute pop. A self-deprecating skit on body image and self-worth then definitively draws a line under Remy’s struggles. The 7-minute “Woman’s Work”, on the other hand, an oblique treatise on the power and submission of sex, is an ice-cool, Italo-disco exercise of arpeggiator and ghostly backing vocals. Understandably there’s a darkness to pop of this sort and it manifests on a mostly sombre B-side, the poignant “Red Comes In Many Shades” barely concealing a barrage of blood and bruises. “New Age Thriller” is darker still, slashing guitars added to the moody beat palette.

Half Free is a musically diverse LP tied together by Remy and her resilient vocal. As the voice of today’s downtrodden “everywoman” she’s angry but restrained. Nowhere is she a wallflower though, and in places she’s far from lacking confidence too, belting out her lines over swaggering arrangements. That these sophisticated blends of piano, beats and strings are so svelte and statuesque should of course be lost on no-one. Do not judge Remy and her work on face value. Spend some quality time with her instead and understand that her stories are all too common and then precisely for whom and why she’s dressing them up so nicely.

Best track: “Damn That Valley”

~Half Free is released September 25th 2015 via 4AD.~