Chastity Belt, a band with many masks, rose to fame with songs titled “Pussy Weed Beer,” “Cool Slut,” and many variations that make you snort and listen further. The four-piece band from Seattle, comprised of vocalist/guitarist Julia Shapiro, guitarist Lydia Lund, bassist Annie Truscott, and drummer Gretchen Grimm, released their first full-length record No Regerts in 2013, then released two following records, Time to Go Home and I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, at two-year intervals. For whatever reason, the break between IUtSSMTA and Chastity Belt seemed long, maybe because the band noticeably evolved into a darker, more introspective direction with IUtSSMTA.
Chastity Belt, the full-length LP released September 2019, is no exception to this new sound. Kicking off with the song “Ann’s Jam” (one of the singles the band released teasing the album), Julia sings of the intimacy of friendship and experiencing life with all of its setbacks and euphoric highs (“Things weren’t always such a blur / In 2008, everything was heavier”). And with this new record, the band has emphasized just that — experiencing the road of life together with chosen family. In an interview for Paste Magazine, they all burst with love for each other, eventually turning talk about the recording process and differences in songwriting from their previous records to the best qualities in each other, gushing in a way that reflects their intimate and over ten-year-long relationship with one another.
The album itself lasts an appropriate forty-three minutes, with co-production by non other than Melina Duterte of Jay Som — and even a string feature by the band’s bassist Annie Truscott on violin and the band’s friend Jessica on cello. Chastity Belt has stand-out songs, specifically the opening “Ann’s Jam,” with its tender lyrics and beautifully-written melodies, and “It Takes Time,” a song driven by a swinging drum line and repetitive lead guitar that is sure to be stuck in your head. “Effort” seamlessly incorporates strings into their sound, the strings becoming a leading vocal line of their own. The album continues with the band’s attention to softness and emotional vulnerability; members have stated in an interview with Atwood Magazine regarding their old humor and care-free attitude, “No one wants to hear a joke more than once.” Although the album has its definite highs, it does leave something to be desired. The last half of the album becomes relatively repetitive, unchanging in style of songwriting or pace. One of the strengths of IUtSSMTA was its incorporation of the older, more upbeat and noisier sounds from their first two LPs (although it felt like the band couldn’t figure out a balance), and I hoped that Chastity Belt would have either incorporated the two styles more seamlessly or found more freedom in this more sensitive style, but neither happened. All that to say, I still felt an emotional connection to particular songs that keeps me coming back to the LP, and I hope the band can continue to find and develop those strengths.
Recommended If You Like: Girlpool, Sasami, IAN SWEET, Lala Lala
Recommended Tracks: 1 (Ann’s Jam), 2 (Elena), 4 (Rav-4), 5 (It Takes Time)
Do Not Play: 6 (Apart)
Written by Bailey Tredway on 11/04/2019