The Washington four-piece return with their fourth, eponymously titled album, hoping to return to a feeling of simplicity amid a conscious decision to declutter their sound. Chastity Belt certainly achieves that, albeit with some loss of variation along the way.
Having produced the album with Melina Mae Duterte (AKA Jay Som) the band seem to have clicked into gear with her languid sound, none more so than in opening track Ann’s Jam, which borrows that sense of a journey being embarked upon, a road trip where the destination might not be the most important thing. However, it’s the gorgeous, blissed out Elena, an ode to giving up part of your former self, that really sets the textural blueprint for many of the songs on here, burning slow and steady with a fuzz of guitars and lush vocals.
Effort benefits from the addition of echo-drenched cello, brooding in the breakdown before building back up to a growl and Apart uses its repeating lyrical motif to a dramatically swooning effect, evoking early My Bloody Valentine in the process. It’s in these songs that Chastity Belt bring cleverly layered guitars and Julia Shapiro’s whispered vocals to their full potency, creating a simple but expansive feel to their music.
The cumulative effect of each song following a similar construct is the danger that things occasionally corpse over into torpor, which might lead the mind to wander off, although it’s a pleasant enough backdrop. The more urgent approach employed within the chorus of Half-hearted, with the beat fuel-injected forward, allows the band to shake out their hair and step away from that soporific strum for a few moments and things stay up-tempo for Drown, which plunges down on a bed of tom-toms and shimmering cymbals. ‘Doesn’t the water feel good?’
The drifting, late summer vibe is sweet enough and the band have certainly gone back to basics with this introspective, stripped down release which should see them keep parity with contemporaries like Snail Mail and girlpool. Already known for their pithy, tongue-in-cheek approach to lyrics and song titles and a sideways take on traditional themes of femininity, the overarching spirit here seems to be much more geared toward reflections on self and future hopes and loves.
That early mischievous spirit maybe used sparingly on Chastity Belt, but they still find time to end things on a song called Pissed Pants. Yet, you can’t help but wonder how things would work out if they had shifted through the gears just a bit more.