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Alternative & Indie - Released June 14, 2019 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released June 14, 2019 | Hardly Art

Julia Shapiro has firmly established herself as Seattle's leading oracle of witty feminist snark through her work with Chastity Belt and Childbirth, two bands whose songs about women's lives in contemporary America are both perceptive and hilarious. But Shapiro suggested there were other sides to her musical personality on Chastity Belt's 2017 release I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, where her songwriting became more personal and introspective, and she bravely wades deep into these waters on her first solo album, 2019's Perfect Version. The punky buzz of Shapiro's earlier work is pushed to the margins, and instead she summons clouds of languid guitar tones, suggesting a more intimate variation on shoegaze, alongside minimal bass and drum patterns, though she switches to a massive, roaring guitar tone for "Harder to Do." (Shapiro also handled all the instruments and vocals on Perfect Version, as well as recording and mixing it mostly by herself.) Perfect Version is Shapiro's most personal and revealing work to date; written and recorded after various events threw her physical and emotional health into a tailspin, this music is the sound of someone taking a long, deep look into themself, trying to identify their mistakes and puzzling over where and how to move forward. From wondering just how it is other people know how to be happy to stewing over how much she's revealing about herself on social media, Perfect Version is a set of songs about one woman at a crossroads in her life. It lacks much of Shapiro's trademark humor, yet the grounded intelligence and unflinching honesty of the songs and performances is consistently powerful and absolutely her own. Time will tell if Perfect Version is a fascinating anomaly in Julia Shapiro's catalog or a bold step into a new phase of her career, but either way it's brave, powerful music that speaks from the heart and the mind. Anyone who has liked her work with Chastity Belt or Childbirth should investigate this study of the emotional flip side of Shapiro's songs. ~ Mark Deming