As its name would suggest, the allure of Girlpool is centered around the musical power of two talented women, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad.
In every one of their songs, Tucker and Tividad sing together in delicate, poignant tones, often harmonizing as if it’s a natural instinct for them. All the while, Tucker’s guitar and Tividad’s bass work together to create the subtle folk punk sound that makes Girlpool distinct. The strong bond between Tucker and Tividad is obvious—both their voices and their instruments complement each other seamlessly. This is the greatest merit of Powerplant, Girlpool’s second LP.
Longtime fans of Girlpool will notice a notable modification to the duo’s sound on the new album: the addition of drums. Percussion was absent from Girlpool’s previous EPs and their debut album Before the World Was Big, contributing to the intimate DIY vibe the band gave off. On Powerplant, though, drummer Miles Wintner is constantly an important presence. Wintner’s playing drives the music forward, never seeming out of place or damaging the dynamic the two women have.
By embracing the drums, Tucker and Tividad have charged much of their album with an exciting sense of urgency. However, there are still times when the record seems to lack a sense of direction, which can sometimes be attributed to a lack of hooks or figurative language that sounds pretty, but makes you wish the album had verified Genius annotations. Still, Powerplant is worth checking out due to the chemistry between the band members and the moments when they nail the perfect haunting resonance.
Powerplant begins softly with “123,” the album’s somber-sounding first single. Tucker and Tividad’s harmonies are beautiful here; however, the song’s minimalist production emphasizes the ambiguity of its lyrics, making it hard to truly connect with. The ambiguity is still there on “Sleepless” and “Corner Store”; however, it’s not as big of a deal on those songs because their sound packs such a punch. On “Sleepless,” a guitar riff builds tension in the verses, leading up to the gorgeous climax that is the chorus. Then, throughout the second verse, Tucker’s playing dances around the other tracks like an elegant, but powerful gust of wind. It’s all so awe-inspiring that you don’t have time to question what “You dream to be sleepless” really means.
“Corner Store” is interesting mostly because of the surprise it holds for listeners. When it begins, it sounds lighthearted and almost reminiscent of the Beatles’ early material. Halfway through, though, the listener is pulled into a funnel of wild, roaring guitars. On the other side of this funnel, the melody from the first verse is resumed, as if nothing ever happened. It’s a fantastic testament to Girlpool’s willingness to experiment.
The rest of the album contains some hits and some misses. Girlpool’s immense potential is always evident; however, sometimes that potential is realized far better than other times. For example, “Fast Dust” is slow-moving and relatively hook-free, and “She Goes By” sounds like a lukewarm outtake from the baggy/Madchester era. When Girlpool finds its groove, though, watch out—it’s an unstoppable force. The triple threat of “Powerplant,” “High Rise,” and “Soup” is especially stunning. “Powerplant”’s contemplative mid-tempo bounce is embellished by a graceful piano flourish in a particularly triumphant moment.
On “High Rise,” Tividad’s bassline takes center stage, giving the track a deliciously grungy vibe. The song’s only 1 minute and 15 seconds long, making it the shortest on the album, but it leaves an impression. “Soup” is the icing on the cake, sounding like a heavenly combination of Nirvana and The Smiths. This is Girlpool at its most thoughtful and cinematic. The sound is absolutely arresting, from the memorable melody to the crescendo after the first verse to the way the music momentarily stops when Tucker and Tividad sing “Can you feel it?” The lyrics are fantastic, as well. In the context of the song’s intense atmosphere, lines like “You walk to the trashcan and throw out the soup” are more than just mundane descriptions of everyday happenings—they’re stage directions in a gritty play that captures emotions like frustration and despondence in a transfixing manner. Even the more abstract metaphors are spot-on here, evoking wonder instead of confusion. Phrases like “Crawl into the birdcage, become a cartoon” show that Tividad and Tucker are capable of writing some truly fascinating poetry, more of which will certainly show up on future releases.
Just like its whimsical cover art, Powerplant has its puzzling points, but it’s also intriguing and unique. If you dive into it, you’ll come away with at least a handful of dazzling gems.