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Alternative & Indie - Released June 2, 2017 | Hardly Art

Chastity Belt have chosen to dive headfirst into maturity on their third album, 2017's I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, which seems somehow antithetical for a band that titled its debut album No Regerts. But from the first track onward, it's clear this band has set out in a different direction; the punky energy of its early work has subsided, as has the goofy sense of humor that once marked its lyrics. This time out, lead vocalist Julia Shapiro has turned her lyrical gaze inward, discussing her anxieties, her doubts, and her troubles relating to others, and while there are still glimmers of razor-sharp wit to be found in these tunes, it's obvious that this time around, she isn't kidding. Considering the level of cheerful snot on their debut album, Shapiro's openness, vulnerability, and bursts of bitterness feel remarkably brave, as she bares her soul without hesitation. And as the lyrics reveal a different side of Chastity Belt, the music on I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone is more measured and contemplative than before. These melodies are dominated by cool, understated indie rock, with Shapiro and Lydia Lund weaving their guitar figures into a whole that's more than the sum of its parts, and bassist Annie Truscott and drummer Gretchen Grimm drive these performances with understated force, whether the mood is languid (on "It's Obvious") or fierce ("5am"). If Chastity Belt are a different band on their third album, they're still strong, passionate, and compelling, and this music engages the listener with its intelligence, honesty, and lean but muscular sound. Growing up is working out well for Chastity Belt, and I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone is clever, satisfying proof. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 8, 2014 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 9, 2012 | Hardly Art

Black Marble's debut album A Different Arrangement should make any fan of early synth pop pioneers like OMD or Soft Cell very happy. Or as happy as an exceedingly gloomy album can make one happy, that is. The duo of Chris Stewart and Ty Kube does an amazing job of recapturing both the sound and feel of early-'80s darkwave and synth pop artists, with some added Joy Division input just to make things less cheery. Kube's mastery of conjuring appropriately clunky and clinky sounds from vintage synths and drum machines is half the equation; Stewart's deep and intense vocals are the other. Though there are traces of predecessors like Ian Curtis in his sound, he conveys enough choked emotion of his own that it's easy to give him a pass. Thanks to the decidedly authentic retro sound the duo creates, A Different Arrangement gives off a decidedly nostalgic impression, helped along by the decision to master the album with all the high end lopped off. This makes the album sound like it was recorded and mixed at the bottom of a pool, which only adds to the sense of restrained and cloistered emotion that runs behind the façade of frozen synths and drum machines. There's not a single moment of sunshine to break the gloom, but the strict devotion to sound and atmosphere that the pair adhere to throughout the record creates an unbroken, melancholic mood that is easy to sink deeply into and embrace. Plus, there are a lot of strong melodies to keep you company as you wallow, and the band displays a fair amount of variation in tempo and instrumentation, so that the record doesn't just wash over you in a monochromatic blur that lacks detail. A Different Arrangement might not be the kind of album that one could cozy up to on a sunny summer day, but on a cold, wintery night it just might be the kind of sound you want to hear as you burrow under the blankets. It's also an impressive debut from a pair who have completely mastered their craft. © Tim Sendra /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 21, 2013 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 23, 2015 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 28, 2011 | Hardly Art

Since he was a member of Gravy Train!!!!, singer/hairdresser/bon vivant Hunx has made a name for himself as an out-and-proud, teen-from-Mars crooner. The first batch of singles he released honed this to perfection, resulting in a treasure trove of great rock & roll love songs. On the first full-length Hunx & His Punx record, Too Young to Be in Love, the focus is on the Punx as much as it is on his oversized persona. The four women in the band contribute songs, vocals, and tough-as-nails musical backing that splits the difference between '50s soda shop pop and smeared mascara '60s girl group sounds, and adds a big splash of ramshackle punk. Chief among the Punx is Shannon Shaw (of Shannon & the Clams); her powerful voice and skilled songwriting make her the leader of the pack. Everyone contributes, though, and Amy Blaustein's wheezy Farfisa is a vital part of the sound and Michelle Santamaria's lead guitar playing is economical and biting. The group vocals that provide the response to Hunx's bleeding-heart vocals are wonderful throughout, happily sassy and full of soul. Hunx, too, is surprisingly full of soulful longing this time. There’s far less strut and wiggle on Too Young -- Hunx spends more time lamenting lost love than he does celebrating. It sounds like he’s been hurt and while it may seem like he’s too frivolous and fun to convey pain, that’s really not the case. Songs like "If You’re Not Here (I Don’t Know Where You Are)" and "Blow Me Away" may sound like silly pop confections on the surface, but, though he’s not a belter by any means, Hunx's vocals have a surprising emotional power. It helps that Shaw is there to back him up, but even if she weren’t this would be more than a novelty record. Thanks to the hooky and familiar songs, the exciting performances, and the perfectly executed aesthetic, Too Young to Be in Love is simply and truly a great rock & roll record. © Tim Sendra /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 11, 2010 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 30, 2011 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 26, 2012 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 14, 2011 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 29, 2013 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 23, 2013 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 15, 2013 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 6, 2002 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 9, 2014 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 29, 2011 | Hardly Art

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NVM

Alternative & Indie - Released February 25, 2014 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 22, 2014 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 11, 2012 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 8, 2008 | Hardly Art

Plenty of bands have embraced the Rolling Stones as a key influence over the years, but much of the debut album from the Dutchess & the Duke suggests this is a new milestone -- a band that has built an entire act around reworking "Sitting on a Fence." Granted, there's a lot more to the Dutchess & the Duke's formula than that, but at their core they're playing rock & roll with just a couple of acoustic guitars and voices, stripping the whole business down to its most basic elements, and their melodic style and their bursts of lyrical insouciance often suggest Mick and Keith in their quieter moments in the 1960s (think Between the Buttons without the gingerbread). Even if the similarity isn't exactly coincidental (and it may well be), the truth is that Jesse Lortz and Kimberly Morrison write this sort of song nearly as well as the Stones did in the mid-'60s, which is to say they do it very well, and while the arrangements are simple in the extreme (acoustic guitars, some hand percussion in the background, and not much else), they also bring out the strength of the melodies with an easygoing, no-nonsense sincerity that's winning. The same can be said for Lortz and Morrison's harmonies, which are rough but committed and just right for this brand of folk-rock with attitude. At a bit less than 31 minutes, She's the Dutchess, He's the Duke doesn't go on long enough to wear out its welcome, and a few more tunes would be welcome, but even the short running time fits in with the duo's "less is more" attitude, and this is one of the more satisfying debut albums to come down the pike in 2008. Note to Lortz and Morrison -- maybe you could try a tribute to "Out of Time" for your production-intensive follow-up? © Mark Deming /TiVo