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Baker's Dozen

Stop, Collaborate And Listen: Meg Remy's Favourite Albums
Skye Butchard , March 1st, 2023 09:21

On the verge of new album Bless This Mess, Meg Remy of U.S. Girls takes Skye Butchard through a Baker’s Dozen dominated by her friends and collaborators

Photo by Emma McIntyre

The borders of home life, work life and creative practice merged on the making of Bless This Mess, Meg Remy’s latest album as U.S. Girls; the Toronto-based artist built a home studio during Covid with her husband and frequent collaborator Max Turnbull. As the album was being written, the couple then had their first children, twin boys. Her bandmates were among those who pitched in with feeding and caregiving. “It was a full-on collab,” Remy jokes.

The record’s domestic setting stands in stark contrast to its immediate predecessor, 2020’s Heavy Light, which was recorded live, in bustling sessions with 20 musicians, but the two share their foundations in collaboration and mutual effort, albeit at a distance this time. The songs on Bless This Mess were stitched together a stem at a time with the help of musicians like Alex Frankel of Holy Ghost!, Marker Starling, Ryland Blackinton of Cobra Starship, Basia Bulat and more.

“Almost everyone I worked with on the record are people that I’ve worked with before,” Remy explains. “Already having that collaborative language in place meant that we could do it over email. Sometimes it's hard to collaborate over email when you don't know the person. You don't know how they talk, their tone of voice, the sensitivity around critiquing. That can be difficult, but pretty much everybody I had a relationship with, so it was easy to pick up while not being in person.” That comfort translates into musical confidence. It’s a record that freely moves through vintage pop sounds, oddball lyrical ideas and effortlessly groovy instrumental passages, all with a quietly existential bent. You get the sense that Remy is welcoming you into her home.

U.S. Girls is a one-woman band, but there’s a wider universe of collaborators and musical connections that go into each new record, from the Toronto underground and beyond. Over a decade on from the grainy, looped solo experiments of her early work back in Philadelphia and Chicago, Meg Remy has evolved into a leading voice in an exciting musical ecosystem. Like many musicians her age or older, she grew up pouring over liner notes, and that physical reference-point is one reason why her Baker’s Dozen features so many of those current collaborators. “This exists for most records that are made, and that’s why I think liner notes are important,”, she says. “Within a record is this endless discography of people who worked on it, and I think that’s a really cool way to find new music”.

Another common thread is a clear burst of DIY lockdown inspiration. Several of these picks are self-produced Bandcamp uploads that went up during the first few months of COVID. Like Remy, many of her collaborators were also locked up at home, creating out of circumstance and survival. They naturally became a soundtrack for her home listening.

U.S. Girls' new album Bless This Mess is out now via 4AD. To begin reading Meg Remy's Baker's Dozen, click the image of her below.