What Chaos Is Imaginary is Girlpool’s third LP, and finds duo Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad shedding past selves like an old skin. The work revolves around gradual personal growth, the pain of becoming someone else and trying to abandon the echo of who you once were. This is the first album the band has released since Tucker’s transition, and the drop of their voice into a lower tenor has changed the core of the songs. Before, their voices blended in gentle harmonies, but now there is sharp division. On previous works, everything was shared, a constant collaboration. Now there are separately composed Tividad songs and Tucker songs, the two trading off on lead vocals, passing the mic back and forth. Each demonstrates their own distinct writing style, taking ownership over their experiences as individuals– friends toughing the world alone, and then coming home to talk about it.
The sound of What Chaos is Imaginary is softer than what we’re used to hearing from Girlpool, whose sound has been constantly evolving ever since 2017’s Powerplant. Edges have softened, attitudes checked, fists unclenched. The new tracks lean towards acoustic, incorporating more dream pop elements, a departure from their traditionally harsh, grunge rock sound. In an interview with Document Journal, Tucker explained, “It is a transitional-sounding album, because I am so over rock music. I love it and it has formed everything in me, I grew up on it. I’m just not interested in making it anymore right now… There are things on this album, like the synth and like the strings, that are just almost ethereal, that step outside of this vanilla shit.”
On the title track, Tividad’s delicate soprano weaves silken melodies over delicate strings and synths. The lyrics feel dark and disembodied: “Got your meds and your sky/You plant the moon in someone’s eyes/I loved him and his violence for the pretty view/Rehearsed a strange reality/What chaos is imaginary.” On “All Blacked Out,” Tucker’s voice decreases to a shiver-inducing whisper, painting lived-in images. Lines like, “Afternoon slowing down, grass sticking to the inside of your legs” and “Sitting on bricks in Philadelphia” resonates in their warm familiarity. Themes of place surface, capturing the atmospheres cities the duo lived while writing– New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. There isn’t one single, defining element to this album. Each song crafts its own version of reality, margins fringed with what could be memory or daydream. It arose from the whirling chaos of change, a transformation both imagined and true. — MARIAH HALL