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Chastity Belt - "I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone" | Album Review

by Niccolo Dante Porcello (@chromechompsky)

Chastity Belt’s third LP, I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone, is their best effort yet, expanding upon the distinctive sound and ethos that have defined their records thus far by diving deeper into the headspace that so distinctively infiltrates their music. In doing so, Chastity Belt have found a perfect balance between their seeming reservoir of impactful lyrics and the oft-effortless sounding sonic space that surrounds those words. I Used To Spend… lives in the space that exists most often solely between the ears, a heady combination of “summer nights” temperament and the feeling of a good drunk, resilient towards but also unsure of whats to come. 

Chastity Belt’s songwriting, both lyrically and sonically, has long found a crafted balance between nonchalance and precision (see: “Black Sail,” and “Lydia,” from earlier records) that is perfected on I Used To Spend… Theirs has always been a talent of making the broad suddenly, often cloyingly, specific. “What The Hell,” finds Julia Shapiro asking questions that are almost comically relatable, but are given a subtle power in the way they're invoked and thrown around: “if i look at my phone again/ I’ll just want to die/ aside from that/ i feel alright.” Another brutally familiar sentiment comes on “It’s Obvious,” where feelings of inadequacy run unchecked despite best efforts, with a dry resignation lurking: “I can hold your interest/ but only for a short time/ and it feels freeing to lose.” I Used To Spend… is full of these moments of cognizance on behalf of Shapiro (as well as Gretchen Grimm, Lydia Lund, and Annie Truscott) that differentiate Chastity Belt; on their earlier albums its modus was often in recognition of the absurd banality and unfairness of modernity; here it appears more as an attempt to reconcile the weird corners of adulthood that rub up against the demands of any form of social existence. 

As much as I Used To Spend… finds its footing existentially, it too brings some of Chastity Belt’s best musical work to date. The mellifluous twin guitar lines of Shapiro and Lund spin around “Complain” where Shapiro details a particularly cursed encounter that devolves into a hangover both literal and metaphorical (“I’m not ok/ I’m not ok/ I want to complain”). “Caught In A Lie” showcases a meandering progression built upon the infallible spine provided by Grimm (drums) and Truscott (bass), and is one of the best songs on the album. “5am,” the emphatic closing song, is the most rip-roaring Chastity Belt song to date, and one of the best songs of the year. Swirling guitars and a furious rhythm section surround Shapiro as she delivers one of the most recognizable sentiments in recent memory, presented in the context of a dwindling party: “immediate urge to get everything all straight/ need to express it, but it’s not the time or place,” before a wall of distortion sends Chastity Belt into the void.

Indeed it is perhaps the closing moments of I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone that encapsulates the record best — the final words on the album, “what makes you bitter makes you old” sidle in just before Lund and Shapiro’s guitars fantastically twist and distort away the record, and serve as a fitting mantra. Chastity Belt seem to have moved beyond the hazy discomfort that accompanies true youth and found a more sure, or perhaps ultimately more lucid, understanding. It is their best record to date precisely because of moments like the end of “5am,” where atmosphere and sentiment blend into a cohesive mess, something that everyone is utterly familiar with. There seems to be nothing less essential to growing up than coming to terms with the particular violence of the whole thing. Chastity Belt really get it. And don’t forget: what makes you bitter, makes you old.