The Student Playlist

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REVIEW: U.S. Girls – ‘In A Poem Unlimited’ (4AD)

  • 8/10
    - 8/10


Meghan Remy’s newest batch of narratives dipped in concoctions of psych-rock, synth-pop, and the avant-garde provide angry, harsh, and in places downright bitter moments of vicarious catharsis.

Amidst the overwhelming vent of recent months’ #MeToo movement, and amongst the general seeming resurgence of feminist agenda in the mass media and popular consciousness, especially as it pertains to the music industry, U.S. Girls’ newest release In A Poem Unlimited comes off as particularly apposite. Continuing on from the exploration of different neo-Americana female voices and stories of 2015’s preceding Half Free, Meghan Remy’s newest batch of narratives dipped in concoctions of psych-rock, synth-pop, and the avant-garde, provide angry, harsh, and in places downright bitter moments of vicarious catharsis.

“Why don’t women resort to violence the way men do? And what if we did? What would that be like?” are the questions Remy asks in a recent interview of hers, when remarking upon the lyrics of the album. Certainly, an interesting narrative inversion onto itself, tangentially bringing up sweet tales of revenge such as the Kill Bill movies in the listener’s mind. But in the hands of Remy, this inversion becomes a vehicle to not only tell unadulterated made-up (or not) stories of provoked aggression, but also to, in sheer female rage, channel more inquisitive allegories and metaphors for political power. Case in point being the song ‘M.A.H. (Mad As Hell)’, a song clearly channeling Blondie and detailing the singer’s feelings for the Obama presidency and some of its controversies such as the deployed drones in the Middle East or the surveillance scandals, all through the lens of a romance gone south.

On the racy opener ‘Velvet 4 Sale’, the listener is immediately plunged into a sense of unease, revealing a mentality distorted by constant awareness of danger: “You’ve been sleeping with one eye open / ‘Cause he always could come back, ya know? / And you’ve been walking these streets unguarded / Waiting for any man to explode”. To the background of wah-wah guitar and jazzy brass section, the narrator casually advises an unnamed woman to go against her assumed caring nature, and explains how to ensure her victim is dead. “Instill in them the fear that comes with being prey”. Strikingly unapologetic, if nothing else.

Throughout In A Poem Unlimited Remy revels in the stories of her protagonists. Be it the woman who withheld her plans to travel to settle down with a man and work in a refinery which eventually made her unable to bear children on ‘Rage Of Plastics’ (grim), or a woman so used to casual abuse that she finds herself going off with a new man, whose beatings keep her in her comfort zone on the marvelously distorted ‘Incidental Boogie’ (grimmer). The artist has talked of taking up an interest in theatre and performance, which seems so perfectly fitting considering her knack for characters and narrative story telling. Each song is its own little Tarantino movie, complete with sensuous sighs, psychedelic grooves, and Meg Remy’s demanding voice. If you’re inclined to question the vaguely southern accent that comes off the singing when the character seems to be distinctly and stereotypically from that region, I’d advise you to get lost in the theatrics of the character performance.

In A Poem Unlimited is an experience that feels especially resonant and pleasingly unapologetic in these tumultuous times. The mixture of different, extremely well-constructed stories for the medium of songwriting, along with the mixture of different genres and styles the project manages to pull from makes for an interesting listen throughout. And while the tracks seem to run out of steam a little bit towards the end, with the ponderings on tracks like ‘Poem’ feeling a little bit more preachy and idealistic than required, and closer ‘Time’ being seven minutes long seemingly for the sake of being a closer that’s seven minutes long, the initial burst of outrageous energy and interesting arrangements keep the experience firmly rooted in your head for a while. (8/10) (Ellie Wolf)

Listen to In A Poem Unlimited by U.S. Girls here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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