Published Jul 07, 2020It's been a formative and fruitful couple of years for New Zealand indie rockers the Beths. Plucked from the cozy Auckland indie scene for a far-flung international tour after the surprise critical success of their 2018 debut, Future Me Hates Me, the band returned to the studio shortly after, with principal songwriter Elizabeth Stokes having already penned much of 2020's Jump Rope Gazers during the months away from home.
Exploring themes of distance and homesickness, the result is another excellent record: rousing in some places, soft and tender in others, and held together with the kind of confident, cohesive playing that only six months of international acclaim can bring.
It's also tighter and more professional sounding, with an eye towards making at least the title track (a bittersweet torch song with a stately intro that Coldplay wouldn't scoff at) attractive to the marketing departments of Netflix teen dramas. As a result, some of the idiosyncrasies and rockier elements of their debut have perhaps been smoothed over, making this a less propulsive and immediate record, but sometimes you have to leave something behind on the path of true potential. There are just fewer notable highs this time around, replaced by a more generalized excellence. The production seems flatter as well.
A big part of the appeal of their debut was the vocal interplay between all four members, and luckily this penchant continues on Jump Rope Gazers, with plenty of gorgeous harmonies and other more creative contributions throughout — although the Beths perhaps lean harder on the former this time around, with some songs approaching Beach Boys levels of choral purity. It seems like the logical next move for the band, and it suits them well, although some of the more rough and ready aspects are missed; we do get a fun whoop or two on "Dying to Believe" though.
While there's an overall sense of reining in and refining on Jump Rope Gazers that keeps it from reaching the giddiest heights of its predecessor, the band sounds just as good in this mode as the other, just a little different. There's certainly no reason at all fans of Future Me Hates Me shouldn't check this latest out, as well as anyone unfamiliar but into recent releases from the likes of Martha, Hinds or Diet Cig. (Carpark)