Culture Pick: “Bless This Mess” by U.S. Girls shows stylistic transformation

Ethan Henry, Staff Reporter

Few artists have undergone a stylistic transformation as stark as Meg Remy’s U.S. Girls since her 2008 debut “Introducing.” Initially a Toronto-based experimental lo-fi project that specialized in moody, ambient tracks, U.S. Girls has turned into something hugely different with a more mainstream appeal. 

After a brief break from touring and releasing music, U.S. Girls is back with a record that explores myth, motherhood and relationships. The album, “Bless This Mess,” is one of U.S. Girls’ strongest albums to date. Remy has been out of the spotlight for the past year, during which time she had been pregnant with and subsequently taking care of twins. This formative experience clearly informs many of the songs on “Bless This Mess.” 

Remy has never shied away from tackling serious topics in her music; previously, she has written songs about various historical and cultural topics that have impacted women. For example, “Rage of Plastics,” a song from the 2018 album “In a Poem Unlimited,” tells the story of a woman who becomes infertile due to her factory work and exposure to toxic chemicals. “Incidental Boogie,” from the same album, was written from the perspective of a victim of domestic violence.  

“Bless This Mess” extends the earnestness of Remy’s songwriting to parenting and motherhood. In the past, U.S. Girls’ grim subject matter could serve as a vernier, providing a layer of dark irony between Remy and the audience.  

But this record, with its starkly personal topics, takes a more direct approach. The album lays the groundwork for this theme in the opening song, “Only Daedalus,” which kicks off the record with a catchy piano riff. Remy launches into a verse about the famous myth of Daedalus and Icarus, and in the context of the album, the father-son relationship between the two is cast in an interesting light. Remy sings, “But son, please keep a steady wing/ And know you’re the only one that means anything to me.” 

Remy told Stereogum in a recent interview, “In terms of this album, mythology helped me get through the taxing physical, emotional trials of being pregnant with twins.” 

Out of all the songs on the album, the title track “Bless This Mess” is certainly the most explicitly about motherhood. As the title suggests, the song is a blunt ode to the trials and rewards of pregnancy and childbearing.  

Additionally, “Pump,” one of the final songs on the album, takes Remy’s strangeness to new heights by sampling her breast pump and bringing the record full circle, thematically speaking. 

The album covers more than just motherhood, though, as the songs “Futures Bet” and “Screen Face” prove. The former is about letting go of anxiety about the future, a particularly striking message from a songwriter who has always been preoccupied with suffering and exploitation.  

“Screen Face,” on the other hand, examines the frustration of maintaining a relationship via FaceTime. Thematically, it recalls the online relationship of The 1975’s “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know).” However, while that song is mostly an expression of sexual frustration, Remy’s approach quietly highlights the diminished humanity of a long-distance online relationship. 

It has always been difficult to fit U.S. Girls into a single genre, partially due to the distinctive nature of Remy’s voice. However, the eclectic nature of Remy’s music extends beyond just her vocals; on this album alone, there are elements of disco, dance music, electronic music and ’90s pastiche-sounding instruments.  

The sharpest turn is probably the funk house song “So Typically Now.” Even Remy acknowledged the stylistic departure in her Stereogum interview, saying, “I’ve never worked with a song like this, I’ve never put myself in a song like this, it makes me uncomfortable, I think I should do it and stick with this.”