Girlpool What Chaos Is Imaginary Anti- Records
It feels reductive to define a band by how much they’ve grown, but Girlpool’s growth feels more tangible than ever. Their self-titled debut in 2014 saw them chanting in unison about parking lots and receiving oral sex while watching American Beauty. Sophomore album Before the World Was Big was characterised by sweeping, front-and-centre harmonies that added shape to their minimal instrumentation. Then Powerplant was a welcome departure from that, adding drums to the mix as a cushion for more poetic lyricism. Now, on fourth studio album What Chaos is Imaginary, Girlpool’s evolution has accelerated once more, creating a world that’s extending deeper and louder.
In 2017, Cleo Tucker began undergoing hormonal treatments, lowering their voice an octave in the process. Harmony Tividad experimented with her solo music, some of which ended up on the new record (Stale Device, Lucky Joke). Consequently, for the first time ever, the members of Girlpool now mostly sing separately, each taking the lead on half of the album’s 14 tracks. Tividad and Tucker have their own stories to tell, on their own terms, in their own voices.
Although they share fewer lines together, Tividad and Harmony are consistently on the same page. Surreal imagery is scattered throughout the record as each singer considers dreams and distant memories, mythical lakes and landscapes inspired by what they see on the road. Girlpool’s new expanding arrangements provide the armour for lyrics that are deeply personal and more poetic than before. On the title track, a string quartet accompanies Tividad’s restless questions about reality. Most lyrics are as liquid as the bodies of water the pair describe, proving not everything can be summarized by simple words or observations.
Girlpool’s previous stripped-down, DIY nature made mistakes more noticeable, forming an inherent vulnerability within each melody. On What Chaos…, their voices stand proud and tall. Album centrepiece Pretty is an exercise in intimacy and self-deprecation, with Tividad cooing “I’m not the person down the block/ I’m not the kid you like a lot/ I drive 500 miles a week/ I count my words I hate to speak”. She breathes what feels like one long, frustrated sigh. Then, just when it seems like Tividad is at her most solitary, Tucker joins her in harmony, as if to remind her that they have her back. Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker are growing up as individuals, but Girlpool remains one strong unit.