Release Date: Feb 1, 2019
Record label: Anti-
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
LA folk-rock duo Girlpool have always been built upon the wandering harmonies between bandmates Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad, their voices supporting one another and intertwining, both experiencing the push and pull of each. The twee, kitschy sound of their debut album Before the World Was Big had grown into something more amplified and deeper with second LP Powerplant, and with their latest release What Chaos Is Imaginary, the pair explore worlds more ambitious than ever before. It's a more confident and adventurous effort that has Tucker and Tividad at their biggest and their best, and is a new chapter into the new Girlpool world.
On album number three, LA duo Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad take a widescreen approach to their eclectic alt-pop, alternating between dreamy soundscapes, country jangle and cacophonous shoegaze From their snarling punk-folk beginnings, the LA duo of Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad have always carried a disarming honesty to their music. Across two albums, 2015's 'Before The World Was Big' and 'Powerplant' in 2017, Girlpool have nestled themselves in a cosy twee-pop corner of light grunge nostalgia and teenage kitchen sink melodrama. 'What Chaos Is Imaginary' has a certain graceful maturity, more so than those previous records, with a laissez-faire slacker rock easy flow that Mac DeMarco fans will enjoy and some inverted alt-folk balladry, delivered with a Jesus & Mary Chain knack for crystalline shoegaze on a cinematic scale - albeit brought into a focus by crisp percussion and shimmering production.
A few songs into Girlpool's 2017 album Powerplant, all the rules the band had set for themselves seemed to fly out the window. The break comes during "Corner Store," a 90-second jaunt built on twangy guitar chords and the close-knit harmonies of the group's two singers, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad. Shortly into the track, the guitars erupt into a squall of feedback and distortion; it's as if we've been lifted from the world of Girlpool and plopped down right in the middle of a Sonic Youth jam.
On What Chaos Is Imaginary, the group’s latest outing and follow up to 2017’s Powerplant, that synergy is still apparent, galvanized here by the same fervor and leavened by the same delicacy that informed Girlpool’s first three releases. There’s the late-90s alternative rock verve of “Hire,” which ardor reaches a fever pitch during Tucker’s grungy shout in the song’s second half. Conversely, though, Tividad will often provide a softer counterpoint to her bandmate’s more truculent vocal style, as in the timid falsetto on “Hoax and the Shrine.
Have you ever forgotten the time on a cloudy day? Hours slip backwards; the world feels strange; your memory of this period freezes into an isolated snapshot, where the ordinary laws of nature cease to apply. Likewise, when the listener wanders through What Chaos is Imaginary, they might forget that best-friend dream team Girlpool are behind the wheel. While 2017's Powerplant transformed Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker's plucky confessions into indie rock gold, this third album tests out even more color swaths, from Elliott Smith-style confessionals like "All Blacked Out" to the Spaceman 3 bliss-out of "Minute In Your Mind.
Still in their early twenties, Girlpool's Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker have been playing music together since they were teenagers and 'What Chaos Is Imaginary' is already the duo's third album. But whereas their earlier tracks were more simple, now their music is a multidimensional, multi-faceted affair, full of fragile introspection and meandering guitars. There are some highlights here - 'Hoax and the Shrine' is a minimalist ballad and feels refreshing in a collection of shoegaze-y buzz and the title-track, with its eerie keyboard chords and strings, stands out among the others as one of the album's more experimental tracks.
If Beach House decided to do indie rock/shoegaze/emo, they'd be Girlpool; it's as plain and simple as that. What Chaos Is Imaginary is the first time I've ever heard this duo, and quite frankly, it's one of those musical experiences that left me wishing I did earlier. Haunting, mesmerising and arresting -- all terms I've heard people throw around regarding them in the past, and while I brushed it off, I can say that most of their new venture fits this bill and is actually worth the hype. Now, that Beach House comparison stands tall with songs like "Where You Sink", but there's some backstory you need to get into before digging in.
L os Angeles-based duo Girlpool's first two albums were defined by their softly intertwining voices, which, given the rudimentary, low-key instrumentation, very much took centre stage. Since 2017's Powerplant, however, Cleo Tucker has transitioned from female to male, and now sings in a deeper register than bandmate Harmony Tividad. As a consequence those songs where Tucker takes the lead come across like the work of a completely different band - there are distinct echoes of Built to Spill's Doug Martsch in their new-found voice on Hire, for example.
Los Angeles based duo Girlpool are back with 'What Chaos Is Imaginary', a fuzz-driven album offering, laced with haunting harmonies and a lyrical wisdom far beyond their years. Where prior to this album Girlpool's vocals were shared in the same pitch range by members Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad, this time Tucker's vocals are an octave lower than Tividad's, spurred on by Tucker's hormonal replacement therapy as they came out as transgender back in 2017. This adds a fresh layer of depth to their sound and propels it into exhilarating new territories.