Indie pop band go two for two with marvelous new testament to hidden feelings
“[T]he truth is that deep down there’s a tiny Liz saying, ‘don’t get excited.’ She is certain that anything good that could happen will most likely not happen… because somebody finally realizes that we aren’t worthy, shouts ‘phony!’ and takes everything away.” – Elizabeth Stokes, lead singer of The Beths.
There is an over-thinker in everyone, scolding them for botching small talk, planting seeds of anxiety underneath their most stable relationships and nudging satisfaction barely out of their reach. The words that begin this review, spoken in a July interview with DIY Mag, could only have come from Stokes’ inner overthinker; her band is not in risk of decline, but rather has tasted a healthy bit of success, travelling between continents to support their young but impressive music career. Originally from New Zealand, The Beths haven’t wasted any of their fans’ time (or their own), rolling out their sophomore album, Jump Rope Gazers, just under two years after the release of their debut. Everything is going swimmingly for this rising pop group, and funnily enough, the only one who can’t seem to buy the fact is Stokes herself.
Her hesitation during the DIY Mag interview suggests that her overthinker has taken over, that she’s let silly doubts soil what should be a time to be proud. Jump Rope Gazers proves the opposite; Stokes, the primary songwriter behind The Beths, has repurposed her apprehensiveness and directed it into a sweet, concise and honest record that shines with personality.
The title track is the rare love song involving two people who don’t want to admit their feelings toward each other–listen as Stokes narrates the subtle dance between them, as awkward as it is touching: “My hopes are prone to elevate/ The way your mind and mine relate/ It breaks the patterns we make.” There’s a funny, wrap-around language hidden within these lines, like she’s asking the teacher to use the bathroom. When she finally gets her intentions across, it feels like a tiny victory.
Everything on this record, from the crisp guitar hooks to the romantic vocal harmonies, feels right. At times surprising and always likable, Jump Rope Gazers contains a welcome musical diversity, from the punk-influenced “I’m Not Getting Excited” to the heartbreaking portrait of loneliness on “You Are a Beam of Light.” Central to the album is its inspired lyrics; “Acrid” encompasses Stokes’ timid outlook on her band’s newfound success, using the lines “I’m trying to lie like a pro and I know/ It looks easy from the outside” like an elegant metaphor for her insecurities. It’s almost too easy for pithy, original thoughts like these to wiggle their way into The Beth’s perfectly groomed pop.
The album’s closer, “Just Shy of Sure,” is the band’s “attempted optimism.” “It feels like a song that looks ahead and wonders how things will turn out,” Stokes has said. As if people needed ten more songs to be sure of it, the band’s future can’t be anything shy of bright.