Girlpool, “What Chaos Is Imaginary”

Girlpool
What Chaos Is Imaginary
ANTI-
7/10

“What Chaos Is Imaginary” is an early single from the new Girlpool album of the same name, and it instantly feels like bold new territory. While Girlpool’s last album was sugary indie pop-punk, their new one paints in broader strokes. It’s animated by more ominous forces, at times both uneasy and haunting. The title track is the clearest distillation of this; it opens with a moaning church organ and gradually incorporates beautiful but anxious, twitchy strings. It’s as hypnotic as it is unexpected.

What Chaos Is Imaginary is what a band in transition sounds like, but it dares to embrace that uncertainty—converting it into an asset, redefining in real time what Girlpool can mean. Since the last album, Cleo Tucker came out as transgender and began hormone therapy. This has scrambled the vocal dynamics of the band: though Tucker and Girlpool’s other half, Harmony Tividad, once sounded similar, Tucker’s vocals are now distinct, sometimes resembling the hushed melancholy delivery of Elliott Smith. Additionally, emboldened by the solo work they focused on since their last album, this is the first release where Tucker and Tividad began writing their material separately, crafting frameworks individually and coming together later in the studio to collaborate.

The lyrics here are oftentimes frustratingly elusive, too loose and fragmentary to parse in any meaningful way. But Tucker and Tividad are still precise in setting a mood. What Chaos defies the relatively easy categorization of 2017’s Powerplant; while “Hire” and “Swamp and Bay” are straightforward, digestible rock songs, “Minute In Your Mind” and “Roses” are woozy and expansive, drifting toward shoegaze.

Regardless of genre, the band’s charming scruffiness has mostly been brushed aside in favor of polished professionalism and vivid texture. You’d be forgiven for feeling nostalgic for Girlpool’s roots, but this album feels like the work of a band unwilling to get mired in the trappings of your expectations. They’re only going to get more interesting. 

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