Let’s face it. There are a lot of terrible things in this world. Michael Scott of The Office announced some of these awful items by calling them goliaths. To him, America’s problems are “Al-Qaeda, global warming, sex predators, and mercury poisoning”. That’s quite a scope. Of course, he’s a fictional character that lives in his own vacuum. While he does have a point–I have to heave a really long sigh here–he misses something that, on a societal level, is a larger looming problem: inequality. Thankfully, instead of Michael Scott addressing these issues in his own hokey way, Meg Remy, the face of Toronto’s U.S. Girls, takes gender inequality and puts her own spin to these issues. The end result is the impactful Art-Pop album Half Free.
Remy wants to deal with the everywoman in society. Her vocal delivery on this record is piercing, not for the sake of being so, rather to lobby these issues, requires the essence of being loud and not pure of heart. Remy can be said to channel Stevie Nicks in her rather nasally vocals and country-folk influences. For instance, “Sororal Feelings” works like a folk ballad in that it tells the story of a conniving man who builds romantic relationships with a group of sisters in hopes of getting free love from Remy’s character, reaching the point where this character states:
“Now I’m gonna hang myself / Hang myself from the family tree.”
It’s in this moment that U.S. Girls’ strong point shines: the lyricism is incredible. In “Window Shades,” the culmination of lyrics translates to the song being about the dreaded second shift that women face when they finish work, which connects to the idea of the child being an enemy in “Navy & Cream.” In “New Age Thriller,” the modern day vampire is the wanting male, the one that believes that his desires, sexual or not, need to be met. In the song’s squeaky pop, Madonna-esque nature, there’s the serious theme of consent that Remy speaks of. Not seeing the sun is one part of what it means to be half free, like the closer “Woman’s Work” suggests.
The instrumentation of Half Free shouldn’t be ignored because it plays a larger than simply acting as a vehicle for the tremendous lyrics. “Damn That Valley” implements a reggae rhythm that colludes with the shrieking vocals of Remy. What this collusion does is mesh the sounds together to the point where they’re unintelligible, something that stands out. “Window Shades” has a jazzy bass that manages to feel busker-like in its approach. “Sed Knife” combines the sounds of Wolfmother and MGMT, having more of a relationship with heavily distorted garage rock, especially with the presence of the whammy bar. “Red Comes in Many Shades” is monotone, but listeners can peel back its surface layer to reveal a love for Mr. Bungle’s “Pink Cigarette.” The vocals don’t impress on Remy’s track, but the experimental synth beats do.
Half Free is sonically very retro and the approach is welcomed in how it connects with the Art-Pop ideas that Remy has. Like Melisandre in Game of Thrones states: “The night is dark and full of terrors”, Half Free acknowledges that completely. The inequality of the everywoman is felt with each mummified tone and every screech that Remy presents to argue her case.
Dustin Ragucos is a writer of things fictional, poetic, and musical. His main loves include Death Grips and Indie music. Dustin’s blog is host to a weekly blurb about albums old and new.