Saturday 15 December 2012

Review: U.S. Girls + Slim Twig

I totally have favourite artists. My punk rock adolescence heroes taught me that having heroes is unpunk. Yet I cannot help but admire those that create art and music that touches me. And frankly, I don't see anything wrong with it either.

Ever since I saw Megan Remy perform under her stage name of U.S. Girls at Madame Claude back in 2010, I have been an admirer and avid follower of her career. Ms Remy touches me because she is a serious sound artist but she is also very female. She never gave the impression of having to compete with men in the male-dominated genre of experimental music. Instead, she would look like the college girl next door and do her thing. And move people along the way.

Then, earlier this year, she signed to Fat Cat Records and brought out a pop album. There is no other way to describe it. It has got that distinct U.S. Girls sound of dreamy, echoey vocals, of tape-looped sound samples and of superb songwriting. But her sound has become that little bit more digestible for a mass market, if the market listened up. This not only intrigued me - who would have thought she had that much pop in her - but it also made me love her as an artist that little bit more. I appreciate a good pop record and part of me wants my favourite artists to do well - something a lot easier achieved when writing music that not only nerds will listen to.

U.S. Girls has also defined the aesthetics behind the project more. Her artwork and videos are strictly DIY but at the same time just ooze cool. There is a very clear look and feel to it all that will make the cool kids want her and the nerds appreciate her at the same time. Moreover, many artists of the genre would do well to have a close look at what this lady is producing and how successfully she is creating an image that many could only be envious of.

Recently, Megan Remy has started collaborating with Slim Twig, a Canadian musician of the garage rock genre. He has producing credit on the latest album, Gem, a song off the album is dedicated to him, Slim Baby, his band is the backing band to U.S. Girls on this tour, and his band is also the support act on this tour. The two projects, and people, have become intertwined and inseparable it seems. And that could have gone either way, but in the case of U.S. Girls, it's just another component that has added something special to her act.

Slim Twig as opening band were good, really, a good garage rock band. However, knowing that U.S. Girls was about to play and set the bar high, Slim Twig were that little bit too standard in my view. As support for one of the many garage rock bands I went to see over the past year, they may have received high praises from me, as indeed the music press is singing them right now. But I was a little apprehensive when I found out that they were not just the opening act but the main act's backing group. 

This worry was unfounded. The musicians in Slim Twig are incredibly talented session musicians, as we were about to find out. Paired with the great songwriting skills and voice of Megan Remy, high quality music was the result. The tape samples and turning of knobs and buttons took a back seat and Ms Remy concentrated on singing and dancing (sort of) while Slim Twig and his men played a well-crafted musical score. I imagine it hard to translate her sound collages into regular guitar music, yet that's what they did so very well.

U.S. Girls of course did not disappoint. It was a very different show from two years ago, with her being on a stage and not behind equipment but freely moving. Her style and appearance have changed dramatically, though the girl-next-door cannot be shaken from her really - and I absolutely love her for that. The half-filled Monarch crowd was dancing and cheering her on. It appears that she does not just move me. The new songs are so easy to sing along to, so easy to fall in love with. With a great sound, who was going to be a spoil sport and not get in the spirit?

I am not a big fan of encores, just in general, but I was really rather sad when the show was over. The knowledge that it was going to be a while until I would see her again made me a little melancholic. Silly, I know. She is just one of my favourites.

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