Published Jun 01, 2015Although born and raised in Los Angeles, Girlpool's Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad recently made the move to Philadelphia, weaving their way into the DIY scene that spawned the likes of Waxahatchee, Swearin' and Radiator Hospital — and if their debut LP, Before the World Was Big, is any indication, they seem to be settling in just fine. The duo made the wise choice of roping in Swearin' frontman Kyle Gilbride to produce the record, who maintains the lo-fi, punk-tinged aesthetic of previous singles, EPs and live sets. But make no mistake — it's Tucker and Tividad's unique sound that leaves a lasting impression on the listener.
Accompanied by just a bass and guitar, the 18- and 19-year-old singers' sometimes-duelling-sometimes-perfectly-in-sync vocals are totally captivating as they churn out tunes about friendship, growing up and making memories. There's a simplicity to certain songs that might sound childish if the lyrical observations weren't so astute and charming, conveying a perfect blend of introspective and universal feeling.
The title track conjures nostalgic, primary-coloured images of elementary school, when all it took to make friends was a common interest in building blocks or eating glue — told from the perspective of someone who's grown up and become acquainted with teen angst. That angsty nostalgia is also heard on tracks like the sadder, slower-paced "Dear Nora" and "Chinatown" ("Do you feel restless when you realize you're alive?"), while it takes a louder, more in-your-face form on the excellent "Cherry Picking," "Magnifying Glass" and album closer "I Like That You Can See It" ("My mind is almost 19 / and I still feel angry").
Before the World Was Big hears Girlpool unapologetically channelling some big feelings in a way that sounds brash without being bratty, and emotional but not without an empowering message. No one wants to relive high school, but if this record had been around back then, those years might have been just that little bit better for all of us. (Wichita)