A cool part of music that I’ve overlooked is how it’s often about group collaboration, and the bonds that develop from working together to create something. When you hear a band’s song, it’s the result of people who (presumably) like each other working together to make music that they believe in. This would be very obvious if I’d ever been in a band, but as a listener I often don’t think about the actual work that goes into these songs, and instead just assume that they like… happen out of nowhere.
Girlpool’s debut album, Before the World Was Big, is what made me start thinking about this. The teen duo of Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker make incredibly simple music, with just guitar, bass, and interlocking vocals. Out of this simplicity comes great power, and there is a sense of deep friendship and connection between the two that is conveyed in the way they write and perform their songs. Before the World Was Big is the sound of two friends making music together in the most direct and honest way they know how.
The sound of Before the World was Big is simple, but its songs are full of nuance and ambiguity. It obviously is from the perspective of two young people, yet it never feels naive. The songs have a darkness running through them as the pair confront the real world and deal with already feeling kind of old while also not really being adults. I could see people saying the pair are “wise beyond their years,” but I actually think part of the album’s power is that they do sound their age — with all the anxieties and feelings that entails — and aren’t afraid to be achingly sincere about it.
Earlier this year, I compared Girlpool to The Shaggs, but they’re also likened to Marine Girls or (often derisively) Kimya Dawson and the Juno soundtrack. But while Girlpool are hardly the first band to come up with the “simple = good” idea, they are the first to be Harmony and Cleo, and it’s their unique point of view and connection with each other that makes this a great album.