Before The World Was Big
by Calley Nelson
At 24 minutes, Before The World Was Big, the debut LP from Los Angles duo Girlpool feels (and is) way too short. It’s incredible that teenagers Harmony Tividad (bass) and Cleo Tucker (guitar) could produce such a following around a lone guitar, bass and whispery, jangling vocals. Wise beyond its years, Before The World Was Big is an empowering, vulnerable, feminist proclamation. The pair avoid singing about love interests, focusing primarily on what it feels like to be an adult, but more specifically, a woman. It’s a topic that isn’t realistically explored in music without being romanticized from a male perspective, and Girlpool creates a flawlessly raw album that gathers strength in its simplicity and straightforwardness.
“Ideal World”, the first track on the album, is a waffling journey of developing self-confidence and sense-of-self, all without the support of others, which in fact describes the overall atmosphere and arc of the album. Lines like “Put me on a food-stamp and a Hallmark card / Tranquilize me with your ideal world” are loaded and significant. Perhaps Tucker and Tividad feel as though general malcontent is overlooked, slighted by cheap and temporary fixes. It’s unclear whether “Ideal World” is a song about their experiences or those of others: the song is ambiguous yet specific enough to be both, as many of the songs on the album tend to be. Lyrically, there is a practiced level of control that’s applied throughout; there is a craft to giving just enough away— to being just vulnerable enough.
The title track, “Before the World Was Big”, is about feeling confined as a kid and slowly growing into an adult, realizing that that confinement held a level of safety and comfort that’s lost in adulthood. Similarly, “Magnifying Glass” — a thirty-six-second song — quickly shows the internal workings of an introvert and the need to keep a modicum of self-knowledge locked away. “Dear Nora”, Pretty” and “Emily” are about the growing pains of drifting apart from childhood friends, holding seances with “incense burning like our age.” “I’m still here,” Tividad and Tucker sing, “remember me?” Elsewhere, “I Like That You Can See It” and “Chinatown” continue to explore anxiety, growing up and still feeling angsty, trying to date but feeling disconnected in a “nervous aching”, wondering why we “feel restless when we realize [we’re] alive.” Before The World Was Big is an album universal to the human experience, a testament to the growing pains that come with being an adult.