In a Poem Unlimited is musician Meghan Remy’s (a.k.a U.S. Girls) eighth studio album since she started exploring the depths of the pop genre with the release of Introduction in 2008. At first listen, U.S. Girls’s In a Poem Unlimited is a groovy experimental pop record with horn-laced tracks and whammy guitar hits that move through the decades. It’s a record of emotional exploration jumping across the base of free psychedelic rock to peaks of rigid electronic pop all in 37 minutes.
Despite its varied sound, In a Poem Unlimited contains three constants: Remy’s disco-era, flower petal voice, the theme of domestic abuse and her emotional reactions to the state of the world in her lyrics. While the entertaining instrumental diversity makes it hard to pick up the emotionally exhausting content at first, the second listen slams into you with each note and every carried out synth.
Remy begins the record showcasing her talent to hit a nostalgic ’70s groove tune with the clean and precise sounds of modern production using combinations of light drum taps and dragging synth notes in “Velvet 4 Sale.” Its light sounding nature is contradicted in Remy’s vengeful lyrics. She sings, “But don’t forget the revenge / Act like you got some velvet for sale / Then, you destroy their hope for deliverance / Don’t offer no reason / Instill in them the fear that comes with being prey,” offering a piece of advice to others who may have been taken advantage of or abused in a similar way to how she was that’s revealed in the later songs of the record.
This disco pop tone of the record flows through the first few songs and grows into a more calm and easy flowing beat with hints of violin and light ’90s nightclub pop notes. It sounds smooth and free, even with its noticeably repetitive nature and leaves us in a place of relief with “Rosebud.” Remy sings “Who holds the key is what you need to know / you and you alone,” giving listeners a note of hope as she displays a moment of self-saving from the turmoil she’s endured that parallels the smooth and forward-moving sound of her voice.
But, Remy doesn’t allow her listeners to get comfortable with her style as she moves in an entirely different direction and circles back into a place of rigid trauma in “Incidental Boogie.” Remy sings “Life made no sense without a beating, you see? / And life was just too quiet / Without no one screaming at me,” turning over ear-aching synths and robotic voices expressing the bottom level of acceptance with abuse. Her troubled vocals move through this disturbing numbness throughout the entire record until she interrupts with “Poem.”
Remy moves through the soft electric sounds of “Poem” and ends with the lyrics, “What are we gonna do to change?” and begins a journey of recovery in her final song “Time.” She sings, “When there is nothing there is still time,” over a fast and groovy pop sound giving herself and listeners a place to step out of the muddy past.
Each song on In a Poem Unlimited is carefully crafted to stand on its own, but listening to it in the context of its whole cultivates a cathartic experience of heavy reconciliation and recovery from domestic abuse laid over a deep exploration of all things pop.