July 7, 2017

LP: Chastity Belt - I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone

Chastity Belt manifests uneasiness into sun-soaked layers of melody. 

Pain is particularly difficult to describe when it’s the kind that lingers, soft and seeping through everything. On their most recent record, Seattle’s Chastity Belt manages to manifest that uneasiness into sun-soaked layers of melancholy, expressing the tendency we have to sometimes thrive off sadness even though it hurts. Keeping with their trademark post-punk attitude, I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone is built differently than their previous efforts thanks to candid lyrics that melt through blissful layers of melodic loops and reverb. The sound is still bittersweet: sun-streaked harmonies with a biting aftertaste.

Courtesy of vocalist and guitarist Julia Shapiro, guitarist Lydia Lund, bassist Annie Truscott and drummer Gretchen Grimm, this could very well be a beautiful instrumental record. But the lyrics fuse the sounds into something quite different. Sung more than often in second person, the lyrics slice right into the soul, transferring very intimate thoughts on loneliness and relationships to the perspective of the listener. Done this way, the separation between the artist as the subject puts listeners in a position to reflect on these topics as a shared experience. Take “Don’t Worry,” a slower track which comments on the epitome of our generation’s shallow social interactions: “You ask me how’s it going; I pull words from the air around me.” So yeah, it’s a bit intense for a band whose past discography includes songs about giant vaginas and weed. On opener “Different Now,” despite an introduction of over a minute of pleasantly-paced percussion, confessions of self-pity are sung without hesitation: “You’re hard on yourself, well you can’t always be right / All those little things that keep you up at night / You should take some time to figure out your life / But you’re stuck indoors and thinking poorly.” It’s this dichotomy of merengue-like melodies holding up hefty ideas on anxiety and heartache that makes this record stand out.

I had the pleasure of recently seeing Chastity Belt perform at the lovely Songbyrd Music House in Washington, DC, alongside Darren Hanlon and local Den-Mate. Just as the record brings listeners together over a shared experience (either via its lyrics or simply love of the sound), the live performance brought such fans together into a community for a night. Under magenta lighting amidst a very humid, slightly PBR-scented aroma, a middle-aged man played air guitar to my left during an awesome instrumental, as a group of young girls danced their hearts off in the front row. As it was my first time seeing them, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But the night proved to be what many in the audience may have hoped to come by: an hour or so to not feel alone.


Listen to Chastity Belt on bandcamp

Molly Pfeffer is a former music-reviewer making her comeback in Washington, D.C. When not shedding tears over fading Americana and off-kilter noise-folk, she’s most likely thinking about eating vegetables and conversing with strangers.