POLARIS PRIZE SHORTLIST 2020
Heavy Light by U.S. Girls CONTENTS
- INTRO: U.S. Girls: Wrapping difficult themes in accessible songs
- About the Polaris Music Prize
- LIVE: A strong set from Bunker Studios, April 2020.
Five songs from Heavy Light Running Time: 21:01
- PLAYLIST: Heavy Light full album on Spotify and YouTube
- VIDEO: Overtime single track on YouTube Running Time: 2:55
- PLAYLIST: Songs from the Polaris Prize 2020 shortlisted nominees and past winners on CBC Music
U.S. GIRLS’ HEAVY LIGHT WRAPS TOUGH TOPICS IN ACCESSIBLE SONGS
Album marks the band’s third Polaris Music Prize nomination
“The songs that give me the most comfort are the ones that point to the duality of death being the same as life, and that it’s a beautiful thing and a necessary thing,” U.S. Girls founder Meg Remy told the Globe and Mail in April.
No surprise then that the American-born, Toronto-based musician’s seventh release, Heavy Light, doesn’t hold back on addressing big and topical issues like environmental panic, mother-daughter relationships, poverty and women’s oppression.
“Heavy Light thrives in this sort of dissociative blaze where gender politics, grief, and deeply fucked-up pop hooks slam into one another,” says music journalist Sophie Kemp in her album review for Pitchfork.
Indeed, the title may refer to pop-experimentalist Remy’s study in contrasts. Difficult themes are wrapped in the accessible warmth of skillfully arranged songs that reference disco, bossa nova, 80s glam, Motown and more.
Interspersed among these tunes are three short spoken word sound collages: advice to my teenage self; the most hurtful thing someone has said to me and the colour of your childhood bedroom.
Two standout tracks
The collection also reprises previously released songs with new arrangements including the urgent Overtime (co-written by Toronto’s Basia Bulat), a lament for a friend who used their overtime pay to drink themselves to death.
And take note of the catchy and danceable album opener 4 American Dollars which sees Remy call out the coldness of capitalist commerce and borrow a line from Martin Luther King: “You gotta have boots if you wanna lift those bootstraps.” Both tracks feature punchy and staccato girl-group-style backing vocals.
Heavy Light is one of ten titles shortlisted for this year’s Polaris Music Prize for best Canadian album – the third time U.S. Girls have made it into the finals. With their intelligent, indie-pop musical shine and lyrical weight, they’re the kind of act that Polaris jurors have a knack for finding and rewarding.
About the Polaris Prize
Since its founding in 2006 the Polaris Music Prize has courted controversy with its unpredictably fluid criteria and sometimes idiosyncratic winning choices. The $50,000 prize is awarded by jury to the best new Canadian album of the year based on artistic merit alone.
The 10 acts on this year’s shortlist feature a gender diverse group evenly split between men and women and including seven BIPOC artists. Five of them have been shortlisted previously with three of them winning. The other five artists are all newcomers.
The nominees are Jessie Reyez, Kaytranada, nêhiyawak, Pantayo, Backxwash, Caribou, Junia-T, Lido Pimienta, U.S. Girls, Witch Prophet. The award will be announced on October 19 and will be broadcast in Canada on CBC Gem, CBC Music’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages and at cbcmusic.ca/polaris.
12 September 2020
Confirming a major talent
By Kitty Empire / The Guardian
The many albums of US Girls – Meghan Remy – could be summed up as a series of sound art installations evolving from experimentation into bold tunefulness. Album six, Half Free (2015), sketched female character studies like a pop Cindy Sherman. Album six, 2018’s celebrated In a Poem Unlimited, was angrier and more explicitly political, even if Remy herself sounded like Debbie Harry doing disco.
US Girls’ latest, Heavy Light, doubles down on sumptuousness and backing vocals while considering multiple perspectives. To that end, there are collaged interludes, in which collaborators give advice to their teenage selves and the most hurtful things that have been said to them; a handful of tracks rework older US Girls material. One of these, Overtime, encapsulates Heavy Light’s best instincts. Recalling Abba via Bruce Springsteen – the latter’s influence telegraphed by a sax solo by latterday E-Streeter Jake Clemons – it’s a song about someone who drinks themselves to death on secret overtime payments. Denise, Don’t Wait, meanwhile, contrasts Phil Spector girl-group percussion with an oblique lyric about fraught mother-daughter relations. Combining bossa nova, a Patti Smith impression (on Born to Lose) and a song about the planet shrugging off its infestation of humans, Heavy Light confirms a major talent.