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World - To be released May 21, 2021 | Hardly Art

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World - Released March 2, 2021 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 21, 2020 | Hardly Art

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"Opener ‘This Is Not the Indie Rock I Signed Up For’ has a gentle introduction and exquisite vocal harmonies, before turning things on their head by including discordant, uncomfortable sounds." © TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 13, 2020 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 24, 2020 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 20, 2020 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 21, 2020 | Hardly Art

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"THE GOLDEN ONE is one of the most unexpectedly moving comedy specials in recent memory..." © TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 12, 2020 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 31, 2020 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 21, 2020 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 20, 2019 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 20, 2019 | Hardly Art

Chastity Belt haven't really changed that much since they released their first album, No Regerts, in 2013, but the changes they have made mean a great deal. Where they previously sounded at once rough and languid, they've grown into a band whose instrumental interplay is artful without seeming pretentious, and the dry snarky wit that was a large part of their early work has faded into the middle distance as their lyrics explore more personal and introspective themes. 2019's Chastity Belt, the group's self-titled fourth album, is still clearly the work of the same band, but this music doesn't shout, it insinuates, and the tone of the conversation is intelligent and unguarded. On Chastity Belt, Julia Shapiro's lyrics are full of musings about her life and her circumstances dotted with details about CDs that skip in the car, needing a new bike, or the judgmental look from a friend who knows you're hung over. The stories feel honest, and are more effective for it. There are moments on Chastity Belt where the volume and distortion turn up and add some dynamic texture to the melodies (especially on "It Takes Time"), but even when this music drifts along on its own momentum, the guitar patterns from Shapiro and Lydia Lund -- drummer Gretchen Grimm also adds guitar on a few tracks -- mesh beautifully, with the whole much more than the individual parts. With Grimm and bassist Annie Truscott holding down the bottom end with a subtle but sure hand, this is music that takes its time but is never less than absorbing and rewards repeated listening. Chastity Belt's musical evolution has been a fascinating and rewarding thing to witness, and this may be their smartest and most compelling music to date. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 21, 2019 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 26, 2019 | Hardly Art

The Pacific Northwest-based trio Dude York hit the punk-pop jackpot with their 2017 album Sincerely. They added bassist/vocalist Claire England to the lineup, added some punch to their sound, and wrote a batch of songs that hit the sweet spot between heartache and joy, soundtracked by giddy voices and riffy guitars. It was a fine formula and it didn't need to change for them to make another strong record. Things did change, though, and on 2019's Falling the group tweak their style in ways big and small, while ultimately proving equally impressive in the end. Maybe even a little more satisfying. The biggest alteration was having England write and sing half the songs. She provided two of the highlights on Sincerely, adding some open-hearted sincerity and big hooks to the mix. She does the same here, and her half of the record is stadium-sized emo pop, full of earnest lyrics about falling in and out of love, sky-scraping guitars, and her brightly hued vocals. Her contributions -- like the hard-charging "I'm the 1 4 U" and "Unexpected," or the insistent "Let Down" -- are brimming with energy and have a joyous sense of freedom that comes through in her vocals and the rippling guitar and power-packed drumming. On the flip side, it sounds like guitarist Peter Richards had a rough stretch in between records. His songs are heartbroken and desperate, with the guitars dialed down and subtle keyboards added. His vocals are one tear-stained step past melancholy, and even the addition of England's harmonies can't break through the gloom. The combination of quietly layered arrangements and super-sad lyrics mean that his half is way less Weezer and much more Cure-inspired. Many of the songs capture the same resigned and beautiful melancholy that permeates the mid-period work of Shout Out Louds. His melodies and vocals take on the weight that England's have cast off; tracks like "Only Wish" and the Ramones-quoting "How It Goes" are dark, and the title of "Doesn't Matter" provides a solid clue as to his state of mind. Dude York prove just as adept at these more subdued and sad songs as they do at the up-tempo rockers, and the blending of the two styles and tones makes for a fascinating record. It's certainly more complicated, both musically and emotionally, and shows the band growing in interesting ways. The cut and paste of wildly different moods and sounds might cause the group to split in two in the future, but on Falling the bond holds tight. © Tim Sendra /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released June 28, 2019 | Hardly Art

Chicago band Lala Lala is centered around the dark-yet-vulnerable songwriting of Lillie West. West's songs reached a wider audience with her 2018 album The Lamb, a collection of straightforward and intuitive indie rock songs about sobriety, trauma, and recovery. The album brought Lala Lala to legions of new listeners for the first time, but was preceded by the more lo-fi rawness of West's 2016 self-released debut, Sleepyhead. Though The Lamb wasn't quite refined, Sleepyhead presented the project in a far grainier and messier way. In between the two albums, West lost a close friend, experienced a home invasion, and went sober, all of which were reflected on directly in her songs. That direct songwriting perspective highlights just how different things were for West at the time Lala Lala was starting out. Sleepyhead's blown-out drums, growling bass lines, and walls of layered vocals all look to '90s grunge as the template for West's lyrics about restlessness and social anxiety. "Dream Song" zips along impatiently, with West rushing lyrics about dreams of a better situation as if she just wants to finish one song so another can start. Boring small-talk conversations and dragging social obligations show up on "Fuck with Your Friends" and "Cool Party but Then We All Left," the latter cloaking a tender interplay between drifting guitar and dissatisfied vocals in dreamy reverb. The short album lasts less than half an hour, wandering between solo songs like "Bully" and full-band explosions like the stand-out "Nothing." Hooky and uncluttered pop songs married to painfully intimate lyrical narratives drew many fans to The Lamb, and Sleepyhead is as strong of a statement as The Lamb's more subdued updates to its uncooked beginnings. Listeners intrigued by riskier production and the happy accidents of lo-fi recording might even prefer the scattered and sometimes unhinged sounds. © Fred Thomas /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released June 28, 2019 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released June 28, 2019 | Hardly Art

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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 /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 3, 2019 | Hardly Art

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