Life’s mysteries can, depending on when they hit you, be absurdly funny, terrifying, or a mix of both. They remain a primary concern of Meg Remy’s music, which has continuously and thrillingly evolved since she started performing under the U.S. Girls moniker, although her outlook has evidently changed. The evidence is in her latest album, Bless This Mess, whose kitschy title might lead you to believe she’s leaning heavily on sarcasm, while its earnest delivery suggests she’s actually closer to embracing a universal message. The apparent immediacy of these songs may have a puzzling effect for longtime fans, but it’s not without reason; in an interview with Rolling Stone, she explained that foregoing the emotional intensity and breadth of 2020’s Heavy Light and her 2021 memoir Begin by Telling was a necessary shift. “Like, am I really going to tear off another layer of skin so soon, when it’s still healing?”
That doesn’t mean Bless This Mess is lacking in substance. Remy is still deeply attuned to the complexities of our individual and collective embodied experience, and even if it’s less layered or vulnerable, the album does anything but ignore it. And for a record that includes a song written from the perspective of a tuxedo (“custom fit to make you feel legit”) and another personifying a rainbow (“Roy G Biv, a gentlemen’s gentleman”), it’s not all that silly, either. Even as it typically swings back and forth between irony and sincerity, Remy – who wrote and recorded the album while she was pregnant with (and after giving birth to) twin boys – casts an empathetic eye without needing to veil her earnestness through noise or narrative tricks. The title track is an unusually straightforward ballad in which her self-consciousness (“You just can’t keep your rage at bay”) gives way to the kind of essential truth Remy might have previously shied away from: “There’s nothing unnatural under the sun/ Everyone’s a baby at the start of this run.”
You expect a twist, or for it to be sung with tongue firmly in cheek. But the irony is that that unambiguously only happens once, when her contained frustration bubbles up on the early single ‘So Typically Now’. The hooks are so irresistible that they seem to be poking fun at the song’s main target – wealthy New Yorkers fleeing upstate – as much as Remy’s biting lyrics, a reminder that she, like many pop-adjacent artists of varying financial backgrounds, has found solace in retreating to the imagined dancefloor (where that old tux beckons). The previous song is another magnificent single, ‘Futures Bet’, whose arena-sized instrumentation buzzes with aliveness, as if to prove its own point. “Why don’t we let it all be a mystery/ That we never sort out?” Remy proposes, allowing only a hint of desperation in her line of questioning: “Why do we wanna know why?” An older U.S. Girls might have amplified the underlying emotion by way of sonic discordance, but here she lets it breathe. When she sighs that “This is just life,” it’s not simplicity or a knowing laugh that’s she after, but some form of acceptance.
Bless This Mess ends up curiously infectious and lighthearted without quite sounding carefree, as Remy finds other, more playful ways to complicate its endearing nature. Many of these songs are eminently danceable, but when ‘Just Space for Light’ answers to its own emptiness by injecting a funky groove, the switch is comically jarring and pointedly awkward – yet the band runs with it, and it’s hard to object. Some of her most valuable songwriting tools – metaphor, myth, humour – continue to offer insight, encouragement, and relief, but they’re not enough to silence a pervading awareness of mortality: “You thread the shell to reveal the past/ Lured by honey to the other side,” she sings on the opener, ‘Only Daedalus’. “And then you die.” You’re in pain for laughing, and Remy doesn’t let it go, repeating the verb on a couple more songs. “Can you tell me what’s ‘to die’?” she asks on ‘RIP Roy G Biv’, a synth line wistfully wobbling over its dreamy surface.
But birth – whether figurative (tuxedo) or real (babies) – also comes up as a mystery opposite and equal to that of death, and it’s the one that gets the most shine. She samples her breast pump on the closing track, ‘Pump’, which drags out for nearly seven minutes. It begins by offering a humorously practical account of the early days of motherhood, and then, fumbling to connect her own broad ideas, she suddenly turns to the audience, repeating the word “you” with disorienting persistence. “You, you, you, you…” When faced with all this – well, mess – she seems to say, what else can you do but point and wonder?