ALBUM REVIEW: The Beths – ‘Jump Rope Gazers’

Words by Emily Hollitt – AKA – Malina Claire

New Zealand’s The Beth’s have been a driving force emerging in the Indie Pop scene for quite some time now. After releasing their acclaimed debut Future Me Hates Me, the group dedicated the next year and a half to touring, supporting the likes of Death Cab for Cutie and The Pixies in their respective US and European tours. Amidst all the madness, the group consisting of Elizabeth Stokes (vocalist, guitarist), Jonathan Pearce (guitar), Benjamin Sinclair (bass) and Tristan Deck (drums) worked tirelessly in Pearce’s Auckland home studio, expanding on material Stokes had penned during the strenuous touring period. Dropping their jobs to pursue their passion project, the new-found success also brought on newfound anxieties, uncertainty and insecurity; all themes which are present in the band’s latest record.

“If you’re at a certain age, all your friends scatter to the four winds. We did the same thing. When you’re home, you miss everybody and when you’re away, you miss everybody. We were just missing people all the time”

Says Stokes on the record, detailing the inherent isolation of adulthood. Echoing the sentiment “Wish you were here, wish I was there” which Stokes found herself repeating during the album’s inception, ‘Jump Rope Gazers’ sheds a light on the human condition, the need for connectivity as well as natural distancing between friendships and loved ones.

Overdriven, anxious guitars open I’m Not Getting Excited. Stokes‘ vocals jump all throughout her range, emanating a sense of tensity and stress. Fast-paced drums echo this emotional discomfort as the song quickly progresses into a mess of noise.

“I’m not getting excited. Cos my fight and my flight are divided. And I don’t enthuse, keep my grip on joy loose and I wait for the news with my foot in my shoes and I lose it all, with one foot out the door”

She sings, emanating the imposter syndrome that comes with the band’s rapid success.

Dying to Believe follows, introduced with cleaner guitars and a stark bassline. Stokes’ vocal delivery is much softer and conversational.

“I’m sorry for the way that I can’t hold conversations, It’s such a fragile thing to try support the weight of. It’s not that I don’t think that my point of view is valid, it’s just that I can’t stand the sound of my own patterns”

The song details how people you love with inevitably fail each other and the only wait to repair the relationship and its’ tensions is through unconditional love and support. “I’m still trying.”

More slow-paced and gentle than the songs prior, title track Jump Rope Gazers’ romantic and atmospheric tonality creates a dreamscape indie rock/ pop sound shifts the tone of the album down in the most beautiful way. “I think I love you and I think that I loved you the whole time”, she sings, her vocals in a higher-range belted pleading tone, transferring her emotions perfectly . Soft harmonies, steady drums and beach-y guitars drive the energy and emotion of the track. “I was just waiting for the grazes of my hands to mend. I was afraid of the sting.” Acrid builds slowly with gradually stacked guitars before the drums kick in and pick up the pace of the song. At points, the vocals almost disappear under the instrumental, but not in a way that does the song any disservice yet aids to the overall mood. “I’m always missing you… I want to run in to you”. “Can you see me through? Can you hear me… I can feel your heartbeat from a mile away” she sings in the bridge as her voice comes further to the forefront of the track, before being pushed back as the guitars gain power again, simulating her overwhelming feelings for this other person; as if she is drowning in them.

*Ed’s Note: To celebrate the release of the new album, the band have shared the title track Jump Rope Gazers, which premiered live this morning via their ‘Live From House’ livestream, alongside a gorgeous video in accompaniment. See new vid below!

“Long distance is the wrong distance. And has never been a gulf that’s quite as grey as the one we wished into existence” opens Do You Want Me Now. Directly analysing her hardships with being across the world from her loved ones, the song evokes a sombre, melancholic feel. Introducing an acoustic guitar halfway through the track, it induces strong, interpersonal sentiments. Featuring backing vocals with simple harmonies and call-and-response parts, the track is reminiscent of a 1960’s style production. Airy, high-frequency guitars and quick drums introduce Out of Sight, presenting similarities to bands like American Football. The heavily reverberated guitar hook sits below the vocals throughout the chorus, creating a unique audio atmosphere. The instrumental build towards the end further establishes the track’s indie/emo influences, creating one of the most musically intricate songs on the record, standing out from the rest of the album.

“It’s been 2 years since you tapped out, flew North, left us in the South” opens Don’t Go Away. Stokes’ gentle, conversational vocal delivery and airy, preppy instrumentals are broken up by heavier, more aggressive guitars between each line in the verses. This simulates the contrasting emotions, seamlessly blending anger and melancholy. Preppy choruses, bouncy melodies and group, harmony vocals give the track the same old timey feel of Do You Want Me Now, demonstrating the bands’ versatility in songwriting and production. The speed of the drums double as the song ends on an emotional high, becoming more modern rock in sound.

Bass drives Mars, the God of War forward, nearing the end of the album with a seemingly darker tone. “I wish that I could wish you well instead of hitting my head and hitting and hitting back space so can’t you just go to hell?”. A classic rock-style guitar solo sits in the bridge of the track, again expressing the bands diversity within their genre. Contrasting this, slow-paced finger-picked acoustic guitar is the main instrument throughout You Are a Beam of Light, emanating the sounds of an early 2000’s alternative rock band’s mid-album ballad. Decorated with harmonies, synths and guitar feedback and gentle keys, the dreamscape track shows a complete different side to The Beths’ music. Just Shy of Sure closes the album with beach-y guitars and disjointing drums and bass. “Can you be happy all your life? Do you think it can happen twice?… Hey, you can’t win without entering, are you cool to lose everything?”. Closing the album’s themes of uncertainty brilliantly, Just Shy of Sure lingers with the listener far after the last drum hit and bit of guitar feedback fades to nothingness. In a period of isolation from human connectivity, ‘Jump Rope Gazers’ acts as a comfort blanket or reliability needed now more than ever.

‘Jump Rope Gazers’ is out now via Dew Process – Listen to/Purchase HERE


With thanks to Positive Feedback

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