- by Mark Moody Rating:6 Release Date:2019-09-20 Label: Hardly Art
No doubt when a band releases a self-titled album well into their career it is meant to declare something definitive or revelatory. In Chastity Belt’s case, their upcoming album reveals itself to be a deeply personal reflection of growing up and being a part of something bigger than oneself. And maybe sometimes getting lost in that, whether it’s a band or a relationship. Musically, as if a nod to a developed sense of self, almost all rough edges have been sanded down in favor of a shoegaze-y sheen that is rarely cracked. Even though the group does expand their approach with more developed harmonies, traded vocals, and the addition of instrumentation, it’s all a bit lost in the fog.
Co-produced by Jay Som’s Melina Duterte, the album gets off to a promising start with the gentle harmonics and quiet drive of ‘Ann’s Jam’. Leader Julia Shapiro, who had her first solo album out this year, reflects on the earliest pre-band days: “driving along in your parent’s car, singing aloud to scratched CD’s.” It’s a beautifully understated and wistful track, that unfortunately just doesn’t recur enough over the course of the album. Though there are a few bright moments in-between, the rest of the best here doesn’t happen until the end of the album. ‘Drown’ is a lush read on losing oneself spiked with a few moments of distortion and the closing ‘Pissed Pants’ benefits from a tightly harmonized low-powered chorus. Band members Lydia Lund (guitar/vocals), Gretchen Grimm (drums), and Annie Truscott (bass) continue to contribute more vocally and instrumentally.
Even on the strongest tracks here, the songs are carried by break-away moments rather than the entirety of their course. In too many other places the songs just don’t provide enough of a foothold to catch on to, the ‘Jean Genie’ riff on ‘Elena’ being an example of too little to make a difference. Tracks like ‘It Takes Time’ and ‘Split’ float along with not much to distinguish them and when some variance, like the brief moments of distortion on the former, takes place it is quickly tamped down. One would hold out hope that a song titled ‘Rav-4’ would be a breezy ride, but even though it is about taking a drive it barely propels itself through to the end: “each night just drags on”.
Though the best songs here take repeated listens to reveal their charms, try as you might others just don’t yield. Perhaps this is intentional. Offered up to the listening public, at the end of the day Chastity Belt is more likely a deeply personal and precious memento meant primarily for the band members themselves. The album musically achieves what some of the lyrics describe – “fogging up the mirror, see yourself disappear” or “thick fog around everything I’ve learned.” Maturity has ultimately brought a mannered approach that at the end of the day fails to reveal much to those of us left outside the tent.
Ann's Jam is really lovely, but I want to vacation at that beautiful place in the video more than listen to the song!