Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad deal in conversations; their first LP together as Girlpool, 2015’s When The World Was Big, was musically sparse, a frontline foundation for the duo’s stop-start ruminations and half-sung-half-spoken poetry. Their lines aren’t ones you’re interacting with, but you sure as hell feel like a proxy to them – it’s hard not to be impacted by verses that include “everyone’s a prophet when they don’t know what to say”. 2 years later, their sophomore effort Powerplant picks up the phone and carries on talking, albeit much more loudly. Where once was empty space is filled in with restrained drum lines and sawtooth grunge guitar, but without overwhelming Tucker and Tividad’s musings – square pegs fit into their right slots without disrupting the feng shui of the record.
The careful neighbourhood of sound Girlpool have arranged for Powerplant is most apparent in one of the singles, ‘It Gets More Blue’. Teeming chords wash over a subtle bassline, complementing Tivadad’s casual admittance to having “faked global warming just to get close to you”. It’s a perfect alt-pop song, never outstaying its welcome but still carrying a beautiful melody. It’s completely unlike anything else on the record, but that doesn’t matter – follow-up closer track “Static Somewhere” brings the song’s quiet energy down to a mellow grind, as Girlpool look to escape the “stillness that hopes”, pills and magazines of the everyday.
Much earlier on, Powerplant makes you feel like you’re waltzing across a suburban town of Tucker and Tividad’s design; from beige domestication, quiet walls painted over and kitchen sinks in ‘Sleepless’ and ‘Your Heart’ to a corner store that’s selling a 4/4 romping love song over plastic-wrapped furniture in the album’s 3rd track. Later, we pass by introspective billboards and a powerplant in the titular number. These buildings and streets are a vessel for the duo’s emotional downpour, flooding them both slowly and all at once.
The real estate Girlpool have set up over their old groundwork is spectacular, and it’s hard to imagine their music without it now; older tracks like ‘Cherry Picking’ are still beautiful in their own respect, but Powerplant fills a hole somewhere far above that of When The World Was Big. Succinct, but still memorable, it’s dug deep into the best releases of 2017.By Jowan Mead