Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad formed Girlpool as teenagers living in Los Angeles. Armed with just a guitar and bass, the two–piece sang in inseparable harmony on their unique brand of folk punk jams. Simple instrumentation left them nowhere in their tracks to hide, but hiding was never Girlpool’s intention; their sharp singing took lyrical swings at slut–shaming and white male privilege on their 2014 debut Girlpool.
Over course of their three releases since 2014, Girlpool has had one voice. Tucker and Tividad’s high pitched harmonies were the band's signature, and even with the addition of drummer Miles Wintner, the vocals always took center stage in the mix. On What Chaos is Imaginary, songs belong to Tividad or Tucker, yet their chemistry remains wholly intact as they fill out their sound with added instrumentation and diversified production.
Since coming out as transgender in 2017, Tucker's singing voice has lowered as a result of hormone replacement therapy. As Tucker and Tividad’s voices have sonically separated, so have their riffs. Previously, their guitar and bass lines often complemented each other on a note by note basis somewhat reminiscent of the Violent Femmes. Even on Powerplant (2017), Girlpool still sounded like the same two–piece from their first two records; an added drummer never took away from the duo’s interwoven aesthetic. What Chao is Imaginary finds Girlpool expanding their sound, opting for retro synths and drum machines in songs like “What Chaos is Imaginary” and “Minute In Your Mind.”
Still, songs like “Lucky Joke” and “Swamp and Bay” have a familiar folk rock sound, but rather than being influenced by punk, Girlpool chooses to settle back into these tracks with a hard–hitting 90’s alt–rock vibe. This stylistic choice works for them because, overall, their production is much cleaner; the bass sits deeply in the mix and the guitars have a cleaner crunch to them. It seems Tucker and Tividad have learned that you don’t have to be loud to be listened to.
What Chaos is Imaginary grapples with change and chronicles the emotional woes that come with it. “You were such an idol/You were the whole world/Now you see/You look pretty broken,” Tividad softly sings on “Pretty,” as she examines a past lover, noticing their flaws. This sincere and uncomplicated yet entirely poetic lyrical style is consistent throughout the album as Tucker and Tividad simultaneously struggle with and stand up to the past.
TL;DR - Should I Listen to this What Chaos is Imaginary?
Absolutely. What Chaos is Imaginary is Girlpool’s best work yet. If you like indie–rock, 90’s alt–rock, or bands like Snail Mail and Soccer Mommy, you’ll probably like this album. Be warned, this isn’t indie–pop, and Girlpool has shied away from pop songwriting structures—they’re more talented than that. Thus, What Chaos is Imaginary is not an easy listen the whole way through, but it does deserve your full attention.
“What Chaos is Imaginary”