‘Chastity Belt’ is a plaintive meditation on growing up

Since their 2013 debut album, No Regerts, Chastity Belt have been celebrating girlhood in all its irreverence. Borrowing heavily from rrriot-girl predecessors like Sleater-Kinney, the band have toed the line between bold and brazen for most of their career, each of their songs flecked with mischief and bursting with righteous, feminist anger. Their latest work, however, a self-titled 10-track album which dropped on Sept. 20, reveals a gentler and more mature side of the band as the foursome reckons with their impending adulthood.

“Ann’s Jam,” the album’s lush and plaintive opener, finds its narrator recalling a road trip she took more than a decade ago. Frontwoman Julia Shaprio’s once-brassy vocals soften as she sings “We were driving South in your parents’ car / Singing out loud to scratched CDs.” 

Shapiro muses about her younger self with fondness, empathy, and perhaps jealousy, singing, “It was clear then, the sea before the storm / Now there’s a thick fog around everything / And I just kill time by dreading everything / But in that moment, life felt significant.”

Indeed, the album’s greatest success lies ultimately in its awareness of the gravity of growing up. Shapiro’s lyrics radiate with courage as she reckons with the reality that, even after so much evolution, there’s always more growing to do. The album’s closer “Pissed Pants” is a sparse and ambiguous number whose ominous noise harkens back to earlier albums. “Yeah, I saw it coming / I saw it coming, and now it’s gone” sings Shapiro remorsefully before her voice is shrouded by the static, fuzzy guitar.                 

Preoccupied with the past though it may be, Chastity Belt marks the start of a new chapter for the Washington band as they settle into a fuller, more developed sound. Gone are the adolescent larks, but the youthful spirit still remains.

3.5/5 stars

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