Meghan Remy is something of a pop anomaly, having been responsible for crafting some of the most exciting, boundary pushing music to come from America in the past ten years. However, it’s unlikely that many will have come across her unique songs until recently. Recording under the name of U.S. Girls, Remy’s experimental pop reached a much wider audience in 2015 with her fifth studio release and 4AD debut ‘Half Free’ decorating many end of year lists. Her latest, ‘In A Poem Unlimited,’ is another extraordinary work of art and certainly feels like her crowning achievement thus far.
It’s clear that this time around, the American-Canadian singer is utterly obsessed with rhythm, which was reflected in her decision to record with the Toronto based, multi-instrumentalist funk and jazz group The Cosmic Range. The result is something so rich, organic and kinetic that it makes for an unforgettable listen. This is typified by the the superlative, meticulously crafted disco of of ‘M.A.H’. It’s easily one of her finest ever moments, coming off like a ‘Parallel Lines’ era Blondie redesigned for 2018 and shot into space. Underneath its taut, infectious beats, though, is an anti-war protest that cleverly combines tragedy and wry humour, delivered with startling vigour by Remy.
‘Rosebud’ is another U.S. Girls classic, built around sumptuous orchestral flourishes, a misty synth wash and its sinister refrain (“It’ll hurt, I promise you”). Meanwhile, the hip-hop-infused shuffle ‘Pearly Gates’ is a perfectly timed indictment of the patriarchal society in which we live and the sexual abuse allegations surrounding the entertainment industry at the moment. The lyric channels her rage wonderfully through the medium of haunting religious imagery and James Baley’s wailing chorus vocal provides a thrilling counterpoint.
To wholly categorise an album such as this feels like a somewhat herculean but ultimately reductive task given the genuinely intoxicating blend of genres and narratives crammed into its concise eleven tracks. There’s bubbling, gloriously melancholic electronica (‘Poem’), harrowing reflections on domestic violence (‘Velvet 4 Sale’ and ‘Incidental Boogie’) and delightfully loose, epic funk jams (‘Rage Of Plastics’ and ‘Time’). Remy’s early releases found her minimal vocals buried deep in the mix beneath vast, experimental soundscapes but here, she sounds infinitely more expressive and undeniably affecting, complementing the truly superb production.
‘In A Poem Unlimited’ is not only the Illinois-born artist’s most accessible material to date, it’s also her greatest collection of songs by some margin and the best you’re likely to hear in 2018. Fuelled by political angst and social inequality, it feels like a landmark and although aided by a plethora of exceptional musicians, it’s difficult to envisage anyone else but Remy conceiving such a record. This is exemplary, political pop music executed to near perfection.
Words: Luke Winstanley
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