Fragile, coming-of-age album...
'Before The World Was Big'

Ahead of recording their debut album, Girlpool - Cleo Tucker on guitar and Harmony Tividad on bass - upped sticks and moved from Los Angeles to Philadelphia.

Philadelphia isn't exactly renowned as having a particularly unique or vibrant music scene, whereas LA has it by by the bucketload; LA's loss is Philly's gain on the strength of a debut album that has more emotional gravitas in its opening bars than most contemporary albums.

'Before The World Was Big' finds the girls musing on growing up, the title referring to how small the world feels when you're young, before your field of vision expands from your immediate surroundings and family, back before you inevitably decide to move on to pastures new.

With such a reflective, introspective subject matter it's no surprise that the album is a pretty deep affair. Tracks range from the pretty, subdued recollections of 'Dear Nora' or 'Chinatown' to the more punky opener 'Ideal World' (which is a mere drum pattern away from a Lunachicks song) to the whining angst of the album's title track.

The highlights here are 'Cherry Picking', a stirring, folksy song that moves from sparse reflections to a stirring chorus, and the curt 'Magnifying Glass' - both of which are reminiscent of the songs that Kimya Dawson supplied for the 'Juno' soundtrack.

At times, 'Before The World Was Big' recalls the bold harmonies of First Aid Kit, or the gentle interplay evidenced on the first Big Deal LP; both of those bands eschewed a full band line-up on their debut albums, and Girlpool share the same ability to throw out moods and emotions without anything as pedestrian as a drummer to clutter up the mix.

Whether Tucker and Tividad can resist the temptation to take songs like the feedback-drenched 'Crowded Stranger', with its feedback fuzz and unfeasibly big chorus, and augment them with a more conventional band format - as, say, Big Deal did - remains to be seen.

As evidenced here, there is more than enough emotional sensitivity available between the duo without resorting to being just like everyone else, and for that reason (amongst many others) this fragile, coming-of-age album should be celebrated.

7/10

Words: Mat Smith

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