The Beths - Jump Rope Gazers Music Album Reviews

On their second LP, the New Zealand indie rockers downshift into a muted, sleeker sound, sacrificing some of the energy that made their debut special.

The Beths’ exhilarating 2018 debut, Future Me Hates Me, was paced like a perfect basement show. Even the slow burners accelerated into overdrive, with singer and guitarist Elizabeth Stokes’ wry, self-aware lyrics serving as perfect shout-along fodder. The two-year wait for their follow up has felt like hanging around for a very late encore, and in the opening minutes of Jump Rope Gazers, you’d be forgiven for thinking those ecstatic and restless Beths are back. On “I’m Not Getting Excited,” Stokes repeats the song’s title as the music tells a very different story—a guitar solo ascends and the tension cranks tighter until the song explodes. But it doesn’t last long: that kinetic energy falls off a cliff by the third track and never really comes back.
Instead, Jump Rope Gazers presents a sleeker, slower, more muted version of the band. The title track is a romantic ballad reminiscent of sentimental ‘90s and ’00s megahits like Sixpence None The Richer’s “Kiss Me” and Lifehouse’s “Hanging By A Moment.” It’s a novel and welcome departure for the band, but by the overly polished pop production of “Do You Want Me Now” and emo seriousness in “Out of Sight,” the novelty wears off and the album loses cohesion. The Beths might want to show their vulnerable side, but they were plenty vulnerable and musically diverse on Future Me Hates Me. The issue is that they do so on Jump Rope Gazers at the expense of their consistency and typically unbreakable tightness. Where FMHM pushed forward, Gazers simply ambles.

The songs are enlivened by stacked harmonies and girl-group-inspired call-and-response chants, breathing life and memorable hooks into songs that crave them. Those slaloming vocal lines, taking strange side paths to their harmonic resolutions, are a reminder that The Beths met while studying jazz at the University of Auckland, and at their most complex, the vocals suggest a hybrid of pop-punk and Motown.

Stokes’ neurotic lyrics have always made singing along with Beths songs that much more satisfying, and on Jump Rope Gazers, those details are still given room to shine. “I wish that I could wish you well,” she sings on “Mars, the God of War.” “Instead I’m hitting my head/And hitting backspace on ‘Can’t you just go to hell’.” Stokes has always presented her inner monologues in their most unvarnished form, and she’s in fine form here: “I’ve never been the dramatic type/But if I don’t see your face tonight / I… well I guess I’ll be fine,” she sings on “Jump Rope Gazers.” While these tidbits keep the sense of fun in The Beths’ music, they aren’t enough to fully invigorate their second album among the more sluggish songs. They’re mostly a reminder of what’s missing.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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The Beths - Jump Rope Gazers Music Album Reviews The Beths - Jump Rope Gazers Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Monday, July 20, 2020 Rating: 5

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