Two years ago, New Zealanders the Beths released a hook-filled debut that caught many off guard. Those unfamiliar with the group beforehand may have approached Future Me Hates Me expecting some simple indie-pop. Instead, they discovered a riotously fun record packed with catchy riffs and intelligently structured songs. It was still simple indie-pop – but done really, really well.
The Beths take another step forward on Jump Rope Gazers, a second album bursting with melodic and high-octane riffs. Proving themselves to be a well-coordinated unit, the four band members rally round each of the album’s striking choruses with pitch-perfect backing vocals and measured instrumentation. Songwriter and lead vocalist Elizabeth Stokes resembles Courtney Barnett in her sharp, humourous storytelling as she reflects on friendships stretched by distance; her poignant lyrics are key to the euphoric sincerity of ‘Jump Rope Gazers’ and the upbeat momentum of ‘Acrid’, as well as the dizzying restlessness of ‘I’m Not Getting Excited’.
There is a persuading ebb and flow to the record as the group rework their emo, pop-punk and ’90s grunge influences around a seemingly endless supply of hooks. Though there is the odd outlier – the droning ‘Do You Want Me Now’ begins to sound bloated after a few plays – Jump Rope Gazers nearly always hits the mark. It’s a record full of endearing energy which The Beths expertly rein in when the moment calls for it. This helps ‘You Are a Beam of Light’ find a quiet corner of reflection, before ‘Just Shy of Sure’ brings the album to a nimble end.
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