by Rob Cleveland
Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad have taken it up a notch lately, with more dynamics, unique transitions and tranquilizing imagery on their new record, Powerplant; it’s a stunning and fulsome LP from the evocative Girlpool. The words are pure poetry, still brutally honest but stronger, pithier and wiser than before: “Looking pretty at the wall is my mistake in love installed/While the moth doesn’t talk but in the dress the holes you saw.” Not only that, but it certainly feels like a psychic transformation for the band.
At times, it feels incredibly personal without truly knowing why at any given moment, but it’s never uncomfortable (save for that ol’ jolt and spook on “Corner Store”). That could be what makes it so powerful throughout—these little vignettes or thumbnails of wit and charming idiosyncrasies in both the music and lyrics. The album has such great warmth and spirit to it, with relentless jousts for the heart. Cleo and Harmony are both dreamers and Iconoclasts, challenging all things pernicious in their unrivaled friendship.
While Before the World Was Big demonstrated the duo’s ability to ripen their wealth of robust songwriting sensibilities (in the raw), Powerplant embraces a fuller, more complete sound with -you guessed it- D.R.U.M.S. Miles Wintner, a friend of Cleo and Harmony’s, is the drummer in the picture. Wintner and producer, Drew Fischer (Kim Deal, Kevin Morby, Vulfpeck), seem to be the glue that binds Cleo and Harmony’s blues magic in the studio. Not to mention, Stephen Steinbrink on piano and Isaac Brock guitarmonies on tracks like “Sleepless” and “Static Somewhere.”
As playful as it gets with lyrics on this album, it never veers into a lane that’s classified by kitsch. It’s genuine, believable and sentimental too: “The nihilist tells you that nothing is true/I said I faked global warming just to get close to you” (123). And then there are lyrics like these: “Working by the powerplant/ Jonathan's a ladder watching all the billboards change into/ a mirror image of his lifted thought” (Powerplant). That’s just clever!
One of my favorite things about this album is its microcosmic energy; it bounces back and forth between quips and abstract metaphors and similes to… banal remarks like, “Looking at the mess I made and staring at the counter.” An effective means of luring you back into the actual remarks being made.
Cleo and Harmony’s inseparable friendship demonstrates unflinching character, promise and fluid vulnerability. The album offers vistas of warmth and intimacy, as well as wistfulness. Powerplant is the fairest of them all, with unadulterated sincerity and elegance to its personality:
“As a society I feel that we perceive softness and vulnerability as traits that are ‘weak’, and people emotionally disconnect themselves in order to avoid going through everything they feel. I think what is most important right now is empathy, and in order to have empathy we must first feel what we, ourselves, feel.” –Harmony Tividad via DORK