The Beths are one of the great New Zealand indie success stories of recent times. Over the last few years, they have come up through the local Auckland music scene, got signed to an international label, and been featured in Rolling Stone magazine, all thanks to their great debut record Future Me Hates Me.
Now comes the tricky part, the difficult second album. The signs were already promising for Jump Rope Gazers, with the three singles delivering the goods. They included the effervescent I’m Not Getting Excited and harmony-drenched Dying to Believe, making one hope Elizabeth Stokes and friends managed to kick another project out of the park. Thankfully, on the whole, they have done that, and in the process made it two out of two quality albums first up.
Jump Rope Gazers manages to retain all the essential aspects of The Beths sound as seen on their debut, a sound that has gotten them this far and attracted many fans worldwide. At the same time, they have done this without sounding as if they are repeating themselves with this collection of songs complementing the songs on Future Me Hates Me nicely.
The four-part harmonies are still there, as are the infectious Elizabeth Stokes melodies, and Jonathan Pearce’s stunning guitar sound, a sound that moves between jangle-pop in the Peter Buck mould and heavy riffage in the Brian May mould. You can hear Britpop and 70s power pop in some of these tracks, but also local influences, especially the likes of fellow Flying Nun label-mates The Bats and Fazerdaze, of which the track Out of Sight sounds eerily similar to the latter.
The shimmering title track with its fantastic chorus and jangle guitar riff is classic New Zealand indie and could be one of the best songs Stokes has written, while Acrid is a mega pop song with plenty of ooh’s in what is a very catchy chorus that will surely ensure this song becomes a crowd favourite in no time.
As always, Liz Stokes self-deprecating lyrics come to the fore both within the songs and via the song titles themselves, as was also the case on Future Me Hates Me. The sincere but tongue in cheek style of Stoke’s writing appeals to many and suits the indie-pop vibe of their music to a core. It’s almost become a trademark of their songs now and does wonders on tracks such as the Motown-esque earworm Don’t go Away and album-closer, the understated but beautiful Just Shy of Sure.
It is hard to believe that The Beths are still a relatively new band but have now produced two records in three years that feature some of the best indie guitar pop going around. With Jump Rope Gazers, they have cemented themselves as one of New Zealand’s top bands, with Stokes herself arguably the best melodic pop songwriter in the country.
Based on the results here, I expect them to build on the international attention they gained from album one, while simultaneously keeping the train rolling here in Aotearoa. In a grim new COVID-world where one can feel hopelessly down and out, this album is just the tonic and I am sure the songs on here will put a smile back on many people’s faces.
See The Beths perform across New Zealand on the dates above.
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Released: 10 Jul 2020