Like tiny cut glass gems on a thrift-store necklace, the tracks on Girlpool’s Powerplant are short trinkets of sound.
Unlike Girl Band who disappointed me by being men, Girlpool were formed in LA by Harmony Tividad and Cleo Turner. They have already achieved plenty. Despite being only 21 and 20, Powerplant will be Girlpool’s second album. Their sound has been bolstered by the addition of drummer Miles Wintner, a format that suits other American bands like Football Etc.
Only two of the twelve tracks make it over three minutes. Most hover around the two minute mark. Songs such as ‘123’ and ‘Sleepless’ are grown-up nursery rhymes, reinforced by a whispery vocal. Everything seems as if it is being breathed under the covers or like a fearful secret from behind closed hands. In the centre of the songs, the softness breaks out and the vocals combine like those of Tanya Donelly and Kristin Hersh.
Some tracks are cutely off-beat, like the humour in Juno. ‘Corner Store’ begins with a guitar from a country song but sings about ‘plastic coated picture frames’. It also has the best line on the album, ‘I want to be a puzzle superglued to you.’ Others are deceptively simple like the splendid ‘Your Heart’ with its enticing fade out. There are also rare moments of aggression. ‘Kiss And Burn’ has a jangly guitar that almost plays a riff but this is overlaid with voice that is much higher in pitch than the other tracks. This obscures the lyrics but not the pain.
It is clear that Powerplant takes self-knowledge and an exploration of the internal as a focus. This means that some tracks can seem very enigmatic. On the slower ‘Fast Dust’, Tividad and Turner are broken angels hurling themselves from the heaven in time to sing on the secular hymn of ‘High Rise’.
The album begins to take itself seriously by the last four tracks. ‘Soup’ makes glorious musical poetry out of taking out the rubbish. Girlpool inhabit a world that seems harsh in which their songs act as protective shells. The people in there with them don’t seem to fair much better, ‘All of these flowers are too much for you.’
The final two tracks are the only ones that extend into territory beyond three minutes. It’s such a relief to realise that they can actually do it. ‘Static Somewhere’ has Wintner on hynoptic tribal drums and it’s another track with that ‘girl trapped under the stairs practising magic’ vocal. You really are left to wonder what would happen if they really let their voices fly.
At once soft and fragile, bitter and abrasive, Powerplant is like eating a bag of sherbet lemons.
Powerplant will be released on 12th May through Anti Records.