Album Review: U.S. Girls – Bless This Mess

Since releasing her first album as U.S. Girls in 2008, Meg Remy has been a prolific powerhouse of ideas, filling eight records with rich, vital and idiosyncratic pop music. Recent years have seen the Toronto musician leap deftly from the rough textures and patchwork grooves on 2015’s Half Free to dense, churning psychedelia on 2018’s In a Poem Unlimited, to the lush gospel infusions of Heavy Light in 2020.

Opening with the bright, glossy and exceedingly likeable funk of ‘Only Daedalus’, Remy’s eighth studio LP Bless This Mess is just as jam-packed with ideas, judging by the fact this joyous Prince-indebted opener wasn’t even one of the four superb singles released in anticipation of the record.

The feeling that Remy has an infinite supply of hooks at her fingertips is only exacerbated by second track ‘Just Space for Light’ which itself has enough material for at least three separate songs. Emerging with a soft, scuffling beat over an ambient hum, the track soon bursts into an intricate groove of snaking electric piano, before a revelatory key change lifts us into the radiant, gospel-backed chorus.

The gospel choir that warmed Heavy Light is tastefully interspersed within the sharper, groovier sounds of Bless This Mess. Single ‘Futures Bet’ is one the album’s most immaculate songs, a stark, understated synth-pop cut, reminiscent of Prince’s Sign of the Times or of his Revolution bandmates Wendy and Lisa. ‘So Typically Now’, the album’s lead single, leans more towards the cold, metallic new wave of Gary Numan in its icy, one-note verse, but flirts with disco for its glitzy post-chorus.

Less restrained, ‘Tux (Your Body Fills Me, Boo)’ is a giddy rush of dance fever. A glittering whirlwind of springy, elastic synth-lines and great twanging bass, the charmingly eccentric song is sung from the point of view of a neglected tuxedo. Remy’s affinity for whimsy is also evident on ‘R.I.P. Roy G. Biv’, in which she reels off a list of colours in what can only be an intentional reference to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. Musically, however, the song is a little drab, its wavering auto-tune and fluttering synths never quite enough to lift the plodding beat off the ground.

‘Screen Face’ is another more pedestrian track, exploring the stifling monotony of remote communication during the pandemic. On one hand, the song’s lethargic, almost sticky instrumental perfectly matches the weary tones of its singers, Remy and Canadian musician Michael Rault. But its mellow sleepiness does make for a tedious listen.

There are more successful attempts at dynamic contrast on the record too. ‘St James Way’ brings with it refreshing, breezy waves of acoustic guitar, laced with light streaks of electronic sparkle. Meanwhile, the title track is an expressive and soulful number led by piano and Remy’s warm, reassuring vocals:

‘Thank the sky for the deluge.

Forget your nightmares and the dreams that didn’t come true.

You don’t need no map when every road ends.

I heard from God and She said,

“I bless this mess,

I see you’re doing your best.”’

The song is the album’s emotional core, a steadying, down-to-earth moment of stillness between the dizzying bursts of funk and disco, and it echoes the heartfelt optimism voiced two tracks earlier on ‘Futures Bet’: ‘Nothing is wrong, / everything is fine; / this is just life.’

Listen to Bless This Mess on Bandcamp or Tidal

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