Had The Beths been able to see into the future of indie-rock back when they formed as Auckland school friends in 2010, you suspect they would have been pleased with what they saw. In those days, they were holding down a rare case of female rock representation; now they exist in a much more vibrant landscape, with acts such as Alex Lahey, Stella Donnelly and Courtney Barnett all making sunny antipodean-rock with a yearning, earnest core. Experts in a dying field? This band are more like veterans of a thriving one, laying down blueprints for their scene to follow.
On album three, the four-piece prove themselves to be as vital as ever. An open and engaging lyricist, Elizabeth Stokes leads an autopsy of her own break-up, exploring the messy, sticky parts that congeal around a wound before it fully heals. Channelling similar ’00s sonics to Soccer Mommy’s ‘color theory’, the likes of ‘When You Know, You Know’ capture this urge for post-break-up answers, even if “climbing in [the] cranium” of a once-lover might yield painful results.
Teaming honesty with determinedly upbeat melodies, The Beths’ sound is instantly welcoming, offering the same cathartic relief of a good heart-to-heart with a mate. Recently, Phoebe Bridgers told Charli XCX, during the latter’s Best Song Ever podcast, that the band filled her with “unbridled joy”. It makes sense: you can imagine the macabre but fun ‘I Told You That I Was Afraid’, which sees Stokes speaking to everything from a fear of dying in her sleep right up to the concern that all her friends “hold me in some kind of secret disdain,” being right up Bridgers self-deprecating street. By the time it unspools into its squealing guitar solo, you can be reassured that any worries you’d ever had about feeling alone is echoed here, healed by some good old-fashioned punk-rock connectivity.
Amid many highlights, two tracks stand out. Reminiscent in some ways of the ‘1989’ Taylor Swift tracks ‘This Love’ and ‘Clean’, ‘Best Left’ is built around a fortifying gang-chorus: “Some things are best left to rot”. Like this album’s closer ‘2am’, it offers shades of cinematic Midwest emo, proving the envelopes that the band are willing to push in their desire to capture every step of the denial-to-acceptance process. Shedding old skins with jubilance, ‘Expert in A Dying Field’ is testament to the belief that better things are always yet to come. For us as listeners, they’re already be here.
Release date: September 16
Record label: Car Park Records