Girlpool - What Chaos Is Imaginary (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


What Chaos Is Imaginary (2019)


If Beach House decided to do indie rock/shoegaze/emo, they'd be Girlpool; it's as plain and simple as that. What Chaos Is Imaginary is the first time I've ever heard this duo, and quite frankly, it's one of those musical experiences that left me wishing I did earlier. Haunting, mesmerising and arresting -- all terms I've heard people throw around regarding them in the past, and while I brushed it off, I can say that most of their new venture fits this bill and is actually worth the hype.

Now, that Beach House comparison stands tall with songs like "Where You Sink", but there's some backstory you need to get into before digging in. These vocals are Harmony Tividad's -- lush, dreamscape-y, and honestly, very Karen Oh-esque -- while the 'male' vocals come in the form of Cleo Tucker. Cleo's transgender, even lowering their voice now to create a new sonic delivery, and in doing so, you get the aspects of the record I'd say are shoegaze and wallowing in crisis of identity narratively (which, trust me, is a good thing).

And we do need a lot more records like these, addressing oppression and identity on the whole in a time where repression is still sadly a thing. This is what a lot of the record runs through -- slaying these subjugating beasts, being free and more so, comfortable in one's skin. Tracks like "Pretty" -- which is honestly one of the best, catchiest '90s alt. jams I've heard in a while -- offer the beauty of life, the superficial and cosmetic light that ring out a la Julia Jacklin. But later down, when you bite into the electronic beats of "Chemical Freeze" and the drowned out atmospherics of "Lucky Joke" and "All Blacked Out", you can pick up on the contrasting darkness the record holds within. It's a duality that presents both singers, marrying them as best friends, artists, creatives and visionaries who want life to be something more. A lot of this haze gets a tad cluttered and boring midway, I admit, losing intensity in walls of sound that don't know whether to be shimmery or shoegaze, but the record picks up later on for fans of acts like Elliott Smith.

You can sense his influence on the title track elaborating on religion, as well as on the acoustic "Hoax and the Shrine". But in terms of the diversity you'll hear fans of Girlpool plugging, well, think of the Hotelier (whom they've toured with) when the upbeat "Swamp and Bay" rolls around. These are upbeat parts of the album, which dare I say feel summer, breezy and hey, even punk at times. By the time the closer "Roses" unravels, there's a lot to process in this musical novel. Lyrically, it's dense and worth pickup as you feel confessions and pain, but the way it slowly burns feels like a song made for Netflix endings on shows like Russian Doll. Sadly, it's set up for a big wall of sound that never comes, and you can't help but feel this is a missed op. It's like new era Title Fight or Turnover, but a bit gentler, and that's ultimately what Girlpool is about -- a whirlpool of emotions, coming of age, and the conflicting dilemmas we face inside.