U.S. Girls is the creative force of a lone American woman, Meghan Remy. Since 2007 she has pursued her minimalist aesthetic with a militant, by-any-means-necessary attitude, collapsing experimental four-track compositions and torch songs alike on starkly defined, statement LP's like 'Introducing…' and 'Go Grey' (on Siltbreeze Records) and in 2011, 'U.S. Girls on Kraak' (on Belgian label Kraak).
While she has been lumped in with other DIY solo artists of lo-fi repute, such as Inca Ore or Sally Strobelight, Remy has unwaveringly declared her influences lie with oldies radio and the distinctly American songcraft of writers like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen (whom she covered to startling effect on 'Introducing…'). Perhaps even more accurately she can be described as a modern pop revisionist who merges the audible artistic honesty of her beloved soul music with lyrical strains of static and tape hiss. Songs like 'Red Ford Radio' and 'Untie Me' reimagine Billboard hit singles of the golden era as bleakly rendered expressions of a primal American femininity.
As with her continuing art practice as collagist and photographer, and what might be called her photocopy-art visual aesthetic, Remy's musical output has been dominated by her insistence on a solo working method. Numerous tours to Europe and North America throughout the Siltbreeze-era saw her travelling unaccompanied, usually by train or bus, to perform material written and recorded in seclusion. Maybe it's the awareness of this once singular insistence that has surprised audiences in the past year, contrasting as it does with a burst of collaborative creativity that sparked a divergence from the U.S. Girls genesis. What started in 2010 as an apparently tentative stab at collaboration—visiting Toronto to record 'The Island Song' with Canadian musician, Slim Twig—has now become standard operating procedure. Starting with their split on Palmist Records, continuing with 'U.S. Girls on Kraak', and now extending into her latest release, Slim Twig has acted as producer, mixer and general foil. While gradually upping the pop ante, these recent releases have sought to maintain Remy's directly emotional appeal and lead to the release of her fourth album, the appropriately titled 'Gem', on FatCat records.
'Gem' will doubtless be remarked on for to its 'improved' fidelity, its focus on arrangement and production, and most of all, its emphasis on directly delivered and strikingly present vocals. But these qualities speak little to the essence of the maturation that 'Gem' is witness to. Present from the beginning but vibrantly defined now are themes that greatly contrast with the newfound sonic approachability. Where before she appeared shrouded and even mysterious, Remy now directly addresses her take on childhood, gender inequality, sex work, and love with a distinctive blend of elegance and frankness uncommon to many contemporary songwriters. Indeed 'Gem' exudes a playful authenticity that is entirely inconspicous within today's pop music. Merging a fascination with glam rock as interpreted by the anti-excess of Patti Smith, these new songs sparkle between the poles of an inverted take on Bolan's Pop testosterone and the alienating abstraction of Throbbing Gristle.
Slim Twig's own musical lexicon sees his predilection for ornate productions streamlined on Gem into tight constructions, as evidenced by the minimalist soul pop of 'Work From Home' and 'North on 45' (both co-written by Remy & Twig), or the glam stomp of 'Slim Baby' & 'Jack' (the latter a Brock Robinson cover song originally covered by friends, Danava). Many moments are distinctly 'band-driven' in sound, Remy's collaborative impulse having expanded to include session work by stalwarts of the Toronto underground (the 'band' that appears on these songs is based around Remy, Twig, Louis Percival, aka Onakabazien, and Tim Westberg of My Mind); come fall, 2012, these musicians will see work as a U.S. Girls backing band. Recorded in studio on Toronto Island, and on the mainland in a rehearsal space, 'Gem' is a record as rarefied as its namesake.
Finally, as if these collaborations weren't enough to coast through a further European tour, 2012 will see additional releases from U.S. Girls. Adding to her already distinguished list of releases on labels as varied as Siltbreeze, Kraak, Not Not Fun, & Chocolate Monk, fans can expect 7" singles on Electric Voice and Atelier Ciseaux and a split 12" with Slim Twig, Dirty Beaches & Ela Orleans on Clan Destine Records. Remy's own Calico Corp. label (a further collaboration with Twig) is releasing singles by Eric Copeland and Sic Alps, and a full-length LP from Slim Twig. 2012 is proving to be a busy year for this admittedly U.S. girl, who's truly an international woman.