Meg Remy is the one badass woman behind experimental noise project U.S. Girls.
After releasing her newest album Half Free (4AD) on Sept. 25, U.S. Girls went full freedom at a live show at The Smell on Sept. 30.
Overcoming the imprisonment of sound mixing and volume issues at the beginning of the set, Remy, along with her backup vocalist Amanda Crist and Remy’s small table of samplers, mixers, and decks, dove into “Navy and Cream” and its soulful hook of “I Go To Pieces.”
It is a catchy song, demonstrating Remy’s range of musical stylings. Half Free feels more accessible than most of her previous work, with its looping samples of beautiful orchestrations and its biting, intelligent (and somewhat more comprehensible) lyrics.
That’s not to say Half Free is some pop confection. It is complex and, at times, difficult. It gives off a funk vibe, but a kind of fucked-up funk, like Chaka Khan on benzos.
The songs have a kind of sad humor to them, and Remy is an excellent storyteller, a weaver of weird and wonderful folk tales (or, well, tales about folks dealing with some crazy shit).
But the difficult issues that Remy presents in these songs, often issues about being a woman in the modern world, don’t seem to scare the audience away. “Woman’s Work” was a jaw-dropping, foot-stomping closer, while a song as strange and lyrically-jarring as the incestuous/suicidal diatribe “Sororal Feelings” made even the random influx of bros in the audience raise their hands and dance to its heavy bouncing beat, like we were all driving together through a run-down neighborhood in a car with hydraulics.
With her Furiosa haircut, her sharp blue eyes, and chipper Lori Petty voice surfing up and down the highs and lows of her songs, Remy owned the stage with swaying, side-stepping dance moves. Occasionally she popped in a tape or fiddled with a knob, introducing a sample that sounded like it was swiped from a haunted house cassette tape, but mostly she sang—and sang well.
The entire show, one of the very first on her world tour, had a very DIY feel to it. Remy’s mind is so obviously full of great orchestrations and a couple rock jams, that it’d be fantastic to see her on stage backed up by a full band, melting the faces off all the feminist bros in the audience.
But that’s not really U.S. Girls’ vibe. She’s a noise artist against the world, throwing fists at the White House (check out the most excellent video for album stand-out “Damn That Valley”) and hiding away in her studio, searching for that perfect kinky sound. Half Free is an album to inspect, mull over, and revisit — a great example that weird and wonderful things can get made in this world, and that their creators can stay weird and wonderful too.
Watch the video for “Window Shades” below.
Courtlin Byrd is a freelance writer living & working in Los Angeles. Most days, she can be found driving the hills in her ’97 Volvo, dancing in diners Audrey-Horne-style, or online here.