What Chaos Is Imaginary
Girlpool Music / ANTI- Records · February 1, 2019
What continues to hold this record back is Girlpool’s refusal to entirely distinguish themselves from their peers.
Girlpool’s third record What Chaos Is Imaginary is a landmark, important project. It is their first record since Cleo Tucker came out as transgender and began taking testosterone, causing their vocal register to lower into a tenor range. Not only is this a massive step for Cleo personally, but this is also a life event not often documented in music or any other media.
Girlpool began releasing music as a duo in 2014. Their music was minimal, featuring bass, guitar, and vocal harmonies. In 2015, they released a full-length record, Before the World Was Big. Their 2017 follow-up Powerplant saw the group departing from their previous dynamic with the addition of a drummer, Miles Wintner, who helped build their sound.
This new record is yet another departure from their original and evolved styles. Not only do Cleo and Harmony’s voices now serve very different roles in the harmonies, but whereas Powerplant allowed them to write louder and more aggressive tracks, What Chaos Is Imaginary takes a step back and introduces a wider instrumental palette, featuring synth pads and drum machines. The more straightforward indie rock and punk aesthetics are still very much present, but a lot of the songs are given more space. These instrumental changes suit the album’s lyrics that often deal in confusion and coming to terms with the past. And apart for some growing pains, most of these changes go over well.
What continues to hold this record back is Girlpool’s refusal to entirely distinguish themselves from their peers. While they certainly bring sharper songwriting and vocal harmonies this time around, most of the songs on this record blend with the sea of effects-filled, reverb-washed indie rock records that we hear regularly. Like their previous records, very few of the songs stick with me enough to recall them once the record ends. That being said, it’s still an enjoyable listen. With each new record, Girlpool hints towards improvement, almost always bringing something entirely different and exciting to the table. But they still have room to improve.