There’s a very specific, unmistakable feeling that comes across when hearing a band perform together at the apex of the individual members’ combined talents. This feeling is best described as a surety that the listener is witnessing a document of musicians in absolute control of the emotions and feelings being conveyed both lyrically and instrumentally from moment to moment. I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, the introspective third full-length album from Seattle, Washington’s Chastity Belt, is one such document. The group’s latest effort is not only a high-water mark for the quartet in terms of songwriting and musicianship, but an apogee of quality for indie rock records released in the first half of this year.
I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone opens with Chastity Belt’s rhythm section, consisting of Annie Truscott on bass and Gretchen Grimm on drums, creating a short, tense moment just before Lydia Lund and Julia Shapiro join in. The two guitarists add a thoughtful melody which immediately relaxes things, easing into the record’s splendid lead-off track, “Different Now”. Shapiro’s melancholic-yet-determined vocal delivery is a perfect fit for the song’s lyrics that deal with getting older and still not knowing where you fit in. “You’ll find in time, all the answers that you seek, have been sitting there just waiting to be seen,” Julia sings, simultaneously reassuring herself and her audience that anyone trying to figure out where they belong in life will eventually end up right where they’re supposed to be.
“Caught in a Lie” has the band stretching their legs a bit as Shapiro repeatedly works up to a soaring chorus, her voice rising to powerfully emotive heights as she sings, “I’ll take a shot of whatever you’ve got, but it’s not going down that easily.” The group’s tight musicianship is perhaps best exemplified on the album’s next offering, “This Time of Night”. The song’s quick tempo during the verse portions has the group following a tricky rhythm wherein each member’s part adds a unique component to the tense build-up before a significantly slackened chorus crashes in.
As the record approaches its halfway point, Chastity Belt changes gears a bit. The band’s drummer, Gretchen Grimm, takes over vocal duties for the song “Stuck”. Grimm’s gentle and airy style, combined with a subtle reverse guitar effect, is a pleasant change-up that’s at times reminiscent of the British shoegaze act Lush. “It’s Obvious” is I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone’s first ballad, and with its beautifully swirling guitar and bass effects, in addition to a charming lead solo, wouldn’t sound out of place at a junior high dance.
The album’s penultimate track, “Used to Spend”, has the band winding things down ahead of the epic five and a half minute closer. “Get strength from what you don’t reveal, communication’s pretty hard, I’ve got some thoughts I cling to, what makes you bitter makes you old,” Julia sings on “5am” as a final warning to listeners before the record’s last two minutes has Chastity Belt firing on all cylinders as a screaming, pulsing guitar solo, similar in sound and style to something the Pixies’ Joey Santiago might pull out, rides a sonic free-for-all that caps off the entire affair with a shot of piercingly satisfying distortion.
Seven years and three full-length albums into a career is the perfect place for a band to find themselves delivering their strongest work to date. With the help of producer Matthew Simms, Chastity Belt have reached a summit in terms of what they’re capable of realizing artistically within their style of moody indie rock. Observing how the band evolves from this point on will no doubt be a thrill to behold. I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone is a remarkable achievement, one that fans of the genre would be remiss to ignore.