Meg Remy has been refining her unique brand of discordant pop for over a decade, but Heavy Light is the first record she released to a slate of towering expectations. Her last album, In A Poem Unlimited, rightfully earned her a place among experimental pop’s most storied contemporary artists. Its bombastic instrumentation, politically charged lyrics, and crisp production also set the bar extremely high for the American-born Canadian artist’s seventh studio album.
While Heavy Light struggles to parallel the urgency and innovation of it’s near-perfect predecessor, its focus is pointed determinately elsewhere. Remy trades the outward political anger of tracks like “Mad as Hell” for the quiet, nostalgic introspection of songs like “Woodstock 99”. The album’s most striking quality, particularly in comparison to its predecessor, is the intimate threads that hold it all together. Like Solange’s A Seat at the Table, the songs are weaved between interviews and voice notes that underscore the music’s nostalgic mood. There are still plenty of characteristic thrills, like the opening track, “Four American Dollars” which features her trademark expat critiques of American capitalism. However, “Denise, Don’t Wait”, the album’s centrepiece, is more representative of Remy’s inward stylistic turn. Composed sparingly with a few reverberated percussive details, her quiet pleas stay with you long after the track has finished.
Another departure for the album comes with the production. While Poem juggled a myriad of styles and genres through a cohesive range of synths, Heavy Light incorporates a higher degree of live instrumentation. Working with a range of session players, the added strings and vocal harmonies bring a three-dimensional quality to the album’s sound. Her upcoming tour features a litany of backup musicians, and you can see how the spirit of collaboration was fundamental to this album’s construction. Somewhat ironically, Remy needed to collaborate with others to make her most personal and introverted album yet.
With a blend of familiar thrills and unexpected turns, Heavy Light proves that U.S. Girls exists in a state of continuous evolution. Remy continues to hone her craft as a whipsmart lyricist, and the group’s embrace of textured instrumentation yields a richer sonic palette for her lyrics to complement. It might not move you physically as much as In a Poem Unlimited, but it will leave you with just as much to think about.