Review Summary: With their second album the New Zealand indie rockers avoid the dreaded sophomore slump
Back in 2018 one of my favorite albums from that year was “Future Me Hates Me” by the New Zealand band The Beths. Led by Elizabeth Stokes the debut was an album full of catchy power pop songs that were stacked to the brim with sharp hooks. The album’s success allowed Stokes and her bandmates to quit their day jobs and to make what was at the beginning a part time gig into something full time.
Recorded during stretches of their tour for the debut, “Jump Rope Gazers” is a worthy follow up that builds on the success of “FMHM”. Right from the start with the frantic “I'm Not Getting Excited” and the punchy “Dying to Believe” you can immediately tell that the band avoided the dreaded sophomore slump. The album only gets better from there with eight more perfect slices of indie pop. Tracks like the urgent “Acrid”, the brisk “Mars, the God of War” and hooky “Don't Go Away” still contain the indelible hooks that made the debut so special. Just on the basis of those songs alone this is a great record but what makes it even better are some of the tracks that shows the band’s more introspective side.
The shoegazey “Out of Sight” and the chiming “Do You Want Me Now” shows that Stokes can venture into more reflective lyrical territory while still giving us some great melodies. However, if anything really highlights the group’s tender side it’s the poignant title track and the wistful “You Are a Beam of Light”. The former is a pretty mid-tempo ballad with ringing guitars while the latter is built upon some lovely folk style guitar strumming as Stokes sings in her most vulnerable voice. In one verse she says “You are a beam of light/Maybe that's why your battery runs dry”.
Ending things on a high note is the bright album closer “Just Shy of Sure” which is filled with ringing guitars, propulsive drums and some great backing vocals that grabs a hold of you until the very last note. I have to admit that 2020 has been an odd year for music but I can definitely say that “Jump Rope Gazers” is my favorite album of the year so far.