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CD of the Month for June: Girlpool - Before the World Was Big

CD of the Month

CD of the Month for June: Girlpool - Before the World Was Big

James Calvet

 

In recent years it has become apparent that punk music is one of the most the farthest-reaching genre tag. No longer is it distorted guitars and drums played at break-neck speeds that characterize this genre, bands that don't stick to the classical punk conventions can still be categorized as "punk rock". In recent years, modern musicians such as Burger Records staple Gap Dream and even Death Grips have proven that rock instrumentation is not necessary to create punk music. All that a group needs to be "punk" is a mentality and ethic that is unique, sincere and against the grain. Thankfully for guitar and bass duo Girlpool, Cleo and Harmony embody everything that is punk rock without drums, distortion or getting remotely loud.

 

Cleo and Harmony are only 18 and 19 respectively and have recently moved from Los Angeles to Philadelphia after releasing their debut self-titled EP that was released in late 2014. Though the EP is only 7 tracks long and clocks in at a mere 16 minutes, their sound took college radio and independent music audiences by storm. Following a handful of well-received live performances at CMJ Music Marathon and different venues on the west and east coasts, Cleo and Harmony finally released their debut full-length with the world.

 

Before the World Was Big is not much longer in length than their EP, amounting to only about 25 minutes of material, but the musicianship and lyrical content proves that this set of tracks is much more robust and thought-out than their previous effort. Much like their usual sound, the duo only incorporates a guitar and a bass to leave room for their bright and youthful lyrics and powerful close vocal harmonies. One of the most notable characteristics of this record is that it is free of fast-paced punk burners that were previously featured on their EP. Most of the tracks are slow-paced and almost completely absent of distortion resulting in the tracks to be ballad-like. The simple plucking of the guitar and bass are not anything challenging or new at all but set as a perfect backdrop that Cleo and Harmony create on this record. The atmosphere is warm and bright much like a spring afternoon spent in the backyard of your parent's house. Along this the scene that is set, the subject matter deals heavily with the transition from adolescence to adulthood while putting an emphasis on highly detailed nostalgia. Girlpool together recalls incredibly idiosyncratic tales of interactions between friends, parents while ultimately figuring out what their individual identities are. The combination of these mature lyrics with the youthful sound of the vocals perfectly captures the mindset of a young adult.

One of the most standout tracks is the single "Chinatown", an acoustic crooner that is possibly the softest Girlpool track to date. The chord changes within this track are incredibly familiar yet sentimental enough to invoke an incredible sense of nostalgia. Furthermore, the progressions seem similar to 70's power pop ballads, more specifically "Thirteen" by Big Star in the fact that it seems like a personal message to a lover and their youngerselves. In the first verse, the track starts out depicting a struggle in trying to love another person then suddenly shifting into the issue of loving yourself. The line "if I told you I loved you would you take it the wrong way" shows that Cleo and Harmony are mature beyond their years, understanding the complexities of modern life at the young ages of 18 and 19.

Much like "Chinatown", each track from Girlpool has a knack for depicting very personal situations while making the themes universal and applicable to the listener. The melodies on Before the World Was Big are definitely sweet, but sour and spunky enough to not rely on pop crutches. Though there is not a blatantly bad song on the album but the only way that Girlpool could make this record better is to include more tracks or spend more time fleshing out the shorter songs to make an even deeper impact on the listener. Undoubtedly, Before the World Was Big is an easily digestible punk record that has enough personality and substance in the lyrics, as well as enough eclecticism and charm in the instrumentation, to make it not only one of the best albums of the year but also an album that is further stretching the boundaries of what punk music can truly be.