Julia Shapiro – Perfect Version

Julia Shapiro has created a beautiful debut album out of adversity. Last year with her band Chastity Belt having cancelled a tour to support their third album’s I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, Julia hit a low point in her life, everything felt out of control, she had health issues, was suffering with depression and had just come out of a relationship. Retreating to her now empty one bedroom Seattle apartment she set about taking back control of her life and one of the healing processes was creating this almost cathartic collection of beautiful songs which became Perfect Version whilst learning how to record and mix her own music at the same time.

Like a large number of musicians over the years when they come to a time of change and adversity they will look at their inner self and draw from these experiences to craft some beautiful intimate songs and Perfect Version is no exception. Going way back to when The Beatles split Paul McCartney found solace in the studio in creating his debut solo album McCartney and playing all the instruments himself. Julia follows a similar path here, everything on the album bar a trumpet solo and a violin is her.

The album despite its layered vocals and shimmering guitars has an almost stripped back lo-fi quality to it whilst recalling hints of an early Velvet Underground musically. But what stands out is the intimacy of this record and especially as a number of tracks were actually recorded in Julia’s apartment.

Despite it’s simple quality, the album has a superbly accomplished sound which shows an artist recovering within herself and her love of music. Also it is the sort of album that would sound good live, I could just imagine Julia stood on a stage armed only with her electric guitar and reverb pedals performing this album to an appreciative crowd.

In this time of overblown songs, of bands thinking they are prog rock guitar heroes and screamed 90 second punk songs Perfect Version is the ideal compromise – 10 accomplished thoughtful songs clocking in at under 35 minutes. But with it being clear the love and attention which has been given to each track with perfect production to back Julia’s accomplished musicianship, playing and thoughtfully constructed intelligent lyrics.

To single out any tracks is hard as they are all good but the rockier Natural and the superb title track were two of the standouts in my view. But Julia maybe hits her creative peak on this album with the two beautiful closing tracks I Lied and Empty Cup which shows an artist emerging from a dark space to hit new creative heights.

Perfect Version is released on Hardly Art on 14th June

Mark Wakeman

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