Girlpool has grown up over the last few years, and their songs are no longer just nursery rhymes and riffs that could be taught at a first guitar lesson. There’s a lot more noise and a lot less talking now. No longer do the voices of Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad outshine the instrumentation, nor are their lyrics as simplistic as they used to be. While Tucker and Tividad are still playing music that carefully downplays itself, they’ve added a lot of production and pizazz.
Covered up by static, louder and more distorted instruments, and more tightly knotted metaphor, it’s harder to tell what Tucker and Tividad are saying on What Chaos is Imaginary, much less that they mean. The album is consistently understated, continuing their journey away from bold proclamations of their first album Before the World Was Big, which was released in 2015. Largely, they’re following the trajectory laid out by their 2017 release Powerplant, their first foray with drums.
Songs like “Hire” and “Swamp and Bay” allow Tucker and Trividad’s voices to play a stronger role. “Swamp and Bay” is especially buoyant — and one of the few songs on the album that gives a little bit of an air of accessibility that the rest of the effort lacks. But while the album lacks some clarity and openness, there are gems beneath the gritty surface.
The album also carries dejection. There’s a lot of darkness portrayed in it, as opposed to the anxious questioning and jovial irreverence of past Girlpool albums. You can find this in the lyrics and hear it through the music and tone; the duo seems to have slowed down a bit and is putting out a more harsh view of the world.
What Chaos Is Imaginary is keeping Girlpool surely on their highway, but it’s a pretty straight road away from where they started. I’ve always felt like it’s unfair to judge a new album on whether they’ll preserve the part of themselves I liked best on their last release, but I’ll miss their unabashed wording and the way they exclaimed those phrases like they had found the fundamental truths, or at least the fundamental questions. Still, Girlpool has got something to say here, even if it’s not what I want it to be.
Katie Sims is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.