The Beths - Expert in a Dying Field Music Album Reviews

The Beths - Expert in a Dying Field Music Album Reviews
The third album from the New Zealand quartet blends openhearted lyrics about post-breakup regret with a sugar-rush immediacy and a craftsman-like attention to detail.

Only beautiful dreamers prize the amicable breakup. With fuck-yous in short supply, severance goes from a clean break to a wrench complicated by second-guessing and enduring fondness—not to mention the painful awareness that fondness either wasn’t enough, or wasn’t given freely enough when it mattered. The Beths’ third album swims in this swirl of hope and anguish—an emotional postmortem that can be hard enough for the regretful to interest their weary friends in, let alone power the kind of snappy songwriting this band made its name on. But the New Zealanders are in their element at turning these murky ruminations into sterling indie rock, its catchiness inextricable from songwriter Elizabeth Stokes’ almost painfully bright and openhearted lyricism.

On Expert in a Dying Field, the Auckland four-piece are back to full power after 2020’s understated Jump Rope Gazers, though they’ve recalibrated, too. Their 2018 debut Future Me Hates Me was giddy and bristling, of a piece with punk-spirited peers such as Hop Along; Expert is richer and less hurried, brimming with smart power-pop that brings to mind the casual virtuosity of ’90s Aimee Mann and the bonhomie and euphoria of Superchunk and Fountains of Wayne. Like the very best of their kind, Stokes, guitarist Jonathan Pearce, bassist Benjamin Sinclair, and drummer Tristan Deck make music that has a sugar-rush immediacy and a craftsman-like attention to detail that invites close listening.

In “Best Left,” Stokes regrets picking at her wounds “well past productivity,” and her bandmates’ pristine harmonies buoy her reminder, yelled at the heavens, that “some things are best left to rot”; the furrowed soloing, meanwhile, makes an intrepid lunge for the freedom of leaving it all behind. Their choruses have an anthemic ease: “Don’t cry/I’m on the next flight,” Stokes imagines her ex saying on “Your Side,” elongating the rhymes to bask in the fantasy, and you’re there dreaming right along with her. But at the same time, their arrangements are visceral and complex, as if they had scored the surges of an adrenaline rush. Stokes often forgoes straightforward melodic toplines to scale and dance around the impetuous playing, moving almost as deftly as Life Without Buildings’ Sue Tompkins amid the chaotic noise of “Silence Is Golden.” Although a couple of songs get samey, Expert is relentlessly invigorating and grounded by the clarity of Stokes’ writing.

On the title track, Stokes wrestles with what to do with the once-shared intimacy of a defunct relationship, her now-obscure specialist subject. What to do with the memory of your former partner’s footsteps on the stairs, your nonsensical shared language, your loving months or years-long research project into how to make them laugh so hard they gag? Stokes’s delivery goes from fluttery to frustrated as she realizes she can’t do anything but live with it. “How does it feel to be an expert in a dying field?” she asks bittersweetly one final time as the song thrashes to a close, as if she’s handing out trophies for her graduating class of pyrrhic winners.

Expert finds its stakes in Stokes’ careful considerations of whether the relationship might yet be salvageable, delivered in a direct address to whoever it is she most wants to hear it. She examines her own fearfulness and and anxieties, admitting to her shame on “Knees Deep” that she only wades up to her ankles in life, and her envy and admiration of someone who slices “like a knife through the surface”—although the full-bodied elation of her performance suggests a different kind of introvert’s boldness. And her attempts at persuasion are even more crushing for their pop perfection. “When You Know You Know” has the loose edge of Sheryl Crow paired with the sort of heart-in-throat bridge writing Taylor Swift does so well. As Stokes sings in a nervous, anticipatory run-on:

Never seen a heart in a worse condition
Pinning all my hopes to the wrong pin cushion
But if you wanna try we could leave it all tonight
We could be aglow in the streetlight

Next the tension breaks to embody her hopes, and they’re “running down the road to jog the memory/Like tit for tat, that is you for me”—just one example of Stokes’ consistently charming and original way with an aphorism. It’s a memory she returns to on closer “2am,” the album’s lone slow song, a lull of rolling guitar and vocal harmonies that steadily build to an iridescent crescendo. “Do you feel it?” Stokes asks. “Feel it like you did back then?/2am/We were pounding the pavement/And I wonder/Could we be that way again?” She sings with an incantatory rhythm, as if teasing their union into existence, and a slight sense of hesitation, all the while painfully aware of the weight of the question. That’s the thing Stokes knows about being an expert in a dying field: It’s the hope that kills you.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
The Beths - Expert in a Dying Field Music Album Reviews The Beths - Expert in a Dying Field Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, September 23, 2022 Rating: 5

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