To anyone paying attention, the music of musical group U.S. Girls is downright uncanny. At the project’s center is independent musician Meghan Remy, whose sugary delivery makes it easy to sing along to words of true Stockholm syndrome. Armed with radiant synthpop, the songs’ protagonists fight uniquely feminine horrors — tales of grief, adultery and domestic abuse pass by unchecked. Thirty years ago, the riot grrrls raged against the patriarchy’s ills; when Remy does, it’s not with a bang, but with a whisper. Bedecked in glitzy disco, her prose slips coyly, effortlessly past.
Released Feb. 24, 2023, Bless this Mess applies a glossy makeover to the post-pandemic era. Producer Edwin de Goedj’s ear is turned towards the sounds of futures past: Glassy synths, low-poly drumkits and chunky bass lines abound. The result of their experimentation introduces vintage sounds into a modern context, which de Goedj polishes to a mirror sheen. All the while, Remy takes on the work of disentangling the ties that bind — and the wires that cross.
Not a single section of the album sags; Remy stacks the tracklist with vignettes of womanhood gone awry. Bless This Mess’s particular flavor of darkness preoccupies itself with the utility of the female body: A woman becomes a suit to be worn, a cow to be milked. This incredibly sinister framing is met with the bright-eyed sonic optimism of a wartime poster.
As Bless This Mess threads the needle between levity and gravity, its stories of dysfunction become more poignant. “Futures Bet” mocks the ailing American state from its opening notes— a rendition of the National Anthem distorted beyond recognition. A steady beat descends over the track, inviting a dissociatively sunny melody from Remy. This opportunity would usually be met with her typical biting satire. Instead, she drops the social commentary to self-soothe by “breathing in, breathing out.” Her circumstances leave her no room to breathe, no breath to waste on a catty remark. The first need to meet, as Remy recognizes, is rest.
Bless This Mess is never so vulnerable as on “St. James Way.” Acoustic guitars whisk Remy along with a singular purpose. The soundscape — punctuated by bright pianos and starry synthlines — outlines a world in which the singer’s meek falsetto plays only a small part. Fed through a tape, that voice becomes ethereal, almost ghostly. The lyrics see Remy bowing to the wisdom of others, who tell her to take St. James Way — and “don’t ever doubt it.” Remy’s character doesn’t need a path — she needs a guide. What better guide than the galaxy itself — the “Voie Lacteé”?
Unlike the pandemic, the production of Bless This Mess was not endured alone. Duets are Remy’s solution to the problem of her loneliness: “Screen Face” and “R.I.P. Roy G. Biv” see her playing off of various lovers. The dynamics described therein trade emotional distance for physical distance, bemoaning the absence with fond hearts. In execution, however, features themselves are sonically underutilized. “Screen Face” is a duet only nominally, given that it’s set during a Zoom date. Elsewhere on the album its sparse instrumentation places the limelight squarely on the singer’s chops. Here, that limelight burns hot on Remy and co-star Michael Rault, who stumble awkwardly through their screen-enabled soireé. Their weak vocal chemistry is the point. While hilarious in concept, that purpose makes it no less of a chore for the listener.
Bless This Mess stitches together trope with reality in a biomythography of modern womanhood. Admittedly, previous album cycles came with more bombast; In a Poem Unlimited (2018), for one, rightfully earned Pitchfork’s Best New Music accolade. In any other oeuvre, this album would be an instant heavy-hitter. In a discography like U.S. Girls’, though, it’s not the tallest poppy.
Daily Arts Contributor Amina Cattaui can be reached at email@example.com.