ALBUM REVIEW: The Beths – Expert In A Dying Field

8/10

The Beths – Expert In A Dying Field

New Zealand indie-rock band The Beths releases their third album, Expert In A Dying Field, a 12-track gathering of autobiographical songs about the aftereffects of elapsed, intimate relationships, be they platonic or romantic.

In essence, the album is akin to a beautiful, emotional autopsy, wherein you examine the cadaver, trying to find out if it's dead and, if it is, why can't you seem to let go? Made up of Elizabeth Stokes (vocals, guitar), Jonathan Pearce (guitar), Benjamin Sinclair (bass), and Tristan Deck (drums), The Beths arrived in 2018 when they released their debut album, and Future Me Hates Me, followed by awards, touring, and appearances at major festivals.

In 2020, The Beths dropped their second album, Jump Rope Gazers, to extensive acclaim. Most of the new album was recorded at Pearce's studio in Auckland, New Zealand, mixed by the band while they were touring the U.S., and finished in a Los Angeles studio.

The album begins with the title track, travelling on layers of scuzzy guitars tinted by power-pop flavours. Stokes' delicately lush voice conjures up suggestions of Dolores O'Riordan – enchanting expressive, and wonderfully nuanced. "Can we erase our history / Is it as easy as this / Plausible deniability / I swear I've never heard of it / And I can close the door on us / But the room still exists / And I know you're in it."

Entry points include "Your Side," which rolls out on jangly guitars, thrumming bassline, and tight, crisp percussion. This song has a dream-pop feel, primarily because of Stokes' smooth, polished vocals, imbuing the lyrics with longing tones. A personal favourite because of its subtle pushing rhythm, "Head In The Clouds" features Stokes displaying the range and hues of her remarkably alluring voice. The intro to "Best Left" includes psychedelic shimmers and segues into heavy, gleaming guitars.

"A Passing Rain" starts off on low-slung glisten guitars topped by Stokes' gentle voice, followed by taking on thick, scuzzy washes of guitars. The juxtaposition of dense guitars against Stokes' translucent vocals gives the tune an irresistible duality of pristine and muddy.

The final track, "2 am," offers soft, sparkling guitars, along with finessed, syncopated percussion and the crème de la crème timbres of Stokes' voice, imbuing the lyrics with wishful, diaphanous textures. "Do you feel it? / Feel it like you did back then? /2 am / We were pounding the pavement / And I wonder /Could we be that way again / Still awake / Talking late in the kitchen."

A grand album, Expert In A Dying Field, reveals the gift of The Beths – great music and great lyrics.

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