Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Review: Girlpool, Before the World Was Big

Girlpool comprises Cleo Tucker (guitar, vocals) and Harmony Tividad (bass, vocals).  I saw them open for Jenny Lewis in Northampton, MA last November and for Waxahatchee in Boston last month.

They're young, just out of high school, recent transplants to Philadelphia from Los Angeles.  Before the World Was Big is their first full-length album, following up a 2014 self-titled EP.

Cleo and Harmony offer a unique sound, just the two of them, stripped down, so far devoid of percussion or other instrumentation.  Their vocals are suitably raw as well, while they sing in harmony, unison, and alternating parts.

They have some potent lyrics in their back pocket, addressing growing pains and insecurity.  "I'm still here, remember me, Emily," they implore in the song "Emily."  In "I Like That You Can See It," the album's closer, they sing, "Is it pouring out my body? My nervous aching" and "My mind is almost 19, and I still feel angry/I'm searching for the reason."

"Chinatown" is a standout track and my personal favorite.  The music and the lyrics meld so well, and these are some of Girlpool's best lyrics:  "Do you feel restless when you realize you're alive?"  "If I loved myself would I take it the wrong way?" "I'm still looking for sureness in the way I say my name." A version released ahead of the album as a single (and closest to the live rendition) is louder and more raw than the wistful, softened album version.  Each version lends the song a different interpretation.  I like that they did both.  The song deserves both treatments.

What is most appealing about Girlpool is the band's authentic voice, which its members put front and center.  I'm looking forward to more from them.  Like I told Cleo at the Boston show, I think they are rising stars.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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