Live Love Laugh

Live Love Laugh by Chastity Belt

Release date: March 29, 2024
Label: Suicide Squeeze Records

Continuing from the refocused vibe from their last, self-titled album, the Pacific Northwest four-piece Chastity Belt is back with their fifth album Live Love Laugh. The band has been together for thirteen years and naturally has evolved in musical theme and song structure from album to album. The things you want to sing about in your 20s are often different than in your 30s…and so on. Wisdom and experience change perspective. The band’s sound is a self-described balancing act between melancholy and optimism. On Live Love Laugh, I certainly found Chastity Belt were at their best during their optimistic and more upbeat tracks.

The musicianship and song structure has noticeably matured on Live Love Laugh. The band now confidently dives into longer instrumental passages full of dreamy atmosphere and savoury melody. “We’ve been playing music with each other for over a decade,” says Shapiro, “so it really does feel like we’re all fluent in the same language, and a lot of it just happens naturally.

The first single ‘Hollow’ showcases the band at their best and brightest. Guitarist Lydia Lund strums a sunny melody over Annie Truscott’s bouncy bassline while Julia Shapiro delivers lyrics in an introspective pensive manner… Julia elongates a lot of vowels in a wispy inflection that accentuates the wonderful soaring vibe of the track. On ‘Hollow’ Julia says: “A classic Chazzy-style tune about feeling lost and stuck, waiting for something to change without necessarily taking action. The older I get, the more I realize that I might just always feel this way, and it’s more about sitting with the feeling and accepting it, rather than trying to fight it. I’m still here, doing my thing, whatever that is.” The lyrics also illustrate introspection and reflection: “there’s a lie/ that we all tell/ I don’t mind/ trading comfort for a change/ free will doesn’t feel free/ anymore/ waiting for some sign/ wasting time /breath in hollow air/ nothing’s there/ I wanna trust myself again”. ‘Hollow’ is a track that encourages you to close your eyes and allow yourself to be taken away by the celestial music.

The strong arrangements continue with the mysterious track ‘Kool-Aid’ sung by Annie. ‘Kool-Aid’ is a more experimental track for the band and if this is the result, I think they should spend more time in the lab! This track is the best amalgamation of weird and engaging. Annie’s understated vocals gracefully enhance the disquieting nature of the song. The lyrics suggest it is hard to say no sometimes: “pour out the Kool-Aid and I’ll drink it…it’s not what I want”  It is the unusual strained guitar tone strumming in the mix that adds a sense of tension throughout this arresting track.

The meaty middle of this album is where Live Love Laugh won me over. ‘Chemtrails’  balances the sombre and the uplifting impeccably, with the rhythmic pulsing of Gretchen Grimm’s drums and the jaunty flashes of guitar.  Then there is ‘Tethered’… wow ‘Tethered’! What a killer track. The drummer also sings! This track just oozes that incredible shimmering atmosphere that reminds me of some of the best shoegaze from the 90s. This song is a majestic ethereal airplane launching into a gray, cloudy sky.  More of this, sonic onslaught, please! ‘Tethered’ asks the question: “What do I hold on to?/ or do I just let go?“ You’ll have to decide for yourself.

All four members of Chastity Belt sing on this album and they all perform admirably! I would be remiss not to mention the track sung by Lund ‘I-90 Bridge’. It is another standout on Live Love Laugh. A steady rocker propelled by a groovy bassline and another catchy melody. The words sung by Lund reflect profoundly on the conflicting challenges of some relationships: “you can stay awhile/ but you can’t sleep in my bed/ tell your girlfriend she’s got nothing to fear/ I’m set in my head/ my body’s a different story” Also the unexpected sharp strikes of percussion during the outro adds an unnerving air as the song winds down.

There are some exceptional tracks on Live Love Laugh and they are all their higher tempo tracks. Belt slows things down on the songs ‘Like That’ and ‘Clumsy’ and in that slow tempo the tracks unfortunately come off as too dreary, bordering on cumbersome at times. The balance between melancholy and optimism is indeed a delicate act. The band sometimes strays too deeply into the melancholy and a few song lack the allurement of their stronger material. That said, there are far more hits than misses. The missteps are minor and don’t taint an otherwise satisfying album.

When Chastity Belt soars to their apex, they reach a dizzying height of memorable glistening melody and shiny sonic wistfulness. With every band member showing they are capable lead singers the potential for future vocal harmonies should be immense! Live Love Laugh is an exciting addition to the band’s catalogue and showcases a band that continues to evolve and improve upon their infectious sound. Bravo!

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