Julia Shapiro – Perfect Version

The new solo album from Chastity Belt's Julia Shapiro is a portrait in greyscale, dissecting the rules by which we live with nuance and compassion

Album Review by Katie Hawthorne | 11 Jun 2019
  • Julia Shapiro – Perfect Version
Album title: Perfect Version
Artist: Julia Shapiro
Label: Hardly Art
Release date: 14 Jun

How could things be different? Perfect Version, Julia Shapiro’s first solo album, cycles through hypothetical, unlikely solutions to a feeling of dislocation. Her whirring thoughts spin like a glitter ball, anxieties catching in the light.

For almost ten years Shapiro’s fronted the Washington state band Chastity Belt, and it was after a third album and a cancelled tour that she found herself seeking out some sort of change. She taught herself to mix and record, taking control of the tools to her music as a means of exploring her own place in the world, and within her own skin.

'How can somebody be so blindly confident? / I wanna know that trick', she asks on opening song Natural, before spiralling into the possibilities of a self-imposed exile: 'I’d like to learn a skill / Something useful / Then I’ll support myself, and I will buy a house / I’ll live alone in it / Somewhere out in the woods / And I’ll feel new again / I’ll be my own best friend'.

On I Lied, half-baked affirmations like 'I should really be more present' grate against sporadic, overwhelming existential dread ('What happens when we die?'), turning the album into a kind of anti-mantra. Perfect Version’s muted shoegaze feels like a weighted blanket, comforting and restrictive, but Shapiro’s sharply observed social commentary prevents the listener from wallowing. Occasional riffs soar skyward, as on A Couple Highs, offering moments of brightness between cracks in the clouds. Shapiro’s solo album is a portrait in greyscale, dissecting the rules by which we live with nuance and compassion. 

Listen to: Natural, Shape, I Lied