Home Music The Beths: Jump Rope Gazers

The Beths: Jump Rope Gazers

As time has gone on, the Beths’ debut, Future Me Hates Me, has only gotten more compulsively listenable. Its combination of pop-punk self-deprecation and indie rock aesthetics is a winning one, and singer Elizabeth Stokes is one of the most effortlessly charming lead singers to arrive in recent memory. It’s such a singular, lightning-in-a-bottle kind of album that trying to recapture it would have been a foolish endeavor, and yet the Beths’ core sound is so appealing that making an identical twin for their follow-up would have been perfectly acceptable. Jump Rope Gazers is not that identical twin, but it is something far more appealing and long-lasting. Rather than either recreating or abandoning their debut, the Beths instead use it as a platform on which they further expand their ideas and the lyrical and emotional depth of their work.

Part of the appeal of the Beths is the seemingly effortless nature of their music: these are trained, talented musicians enjoying themselves playing in a style that can occasionally feel laborious and fussy in the hands of lesser composers. The one-two punch of “I’m Not Getting Excited” and “Dying to Believe” exemplify this, their combination of sugar-sweet melodies and sad lyrics meshing well without coming across as being deliberately clever. It’s very much the same sort of trick that the band performed on Future Me Hates Me, but it’s sort of an outlier on Jump Rope Gazers. Starting from the wistful, beautiful title track onward, the songs take a more thoughtful tone; more reliance is placed on themes of longing and distance. The album necessarily slows down and allows for more open space in their songs, but even as the band sacrifices pep, they remain as captivating as ever.

Furthermore, the band’s lyrics have grown in maturity considerably in the time between albums. Elements of the Beths’ emo and pop-punk influence remain in some aspects of Jump Rope Gazers—particularly on “Don’t Go Away”—but where Future Me’s songs occasionally teetered towards a very strong dislike of oneself, Gazers turns its gaze outward, examining the nature of human connection in a way that doesn’t place the blame squarely on anyone. The title track tells the story of a failed relationship, but it implies that the failure was the result of happenstance rather than malice, which makes it all the more tragic. Meanwhile, the acoustic ballad “You Are a Beam of Light” laments how so much of human interaction is conducted digitally at a distance (a theme that only feels more relevant in the age of socially distant Zoom hangouts) and how that wears on the soul. It’s on songs like these that Stokes is also able to show her vocal range, as she ably handles the sensitive approach that these songs seem to call for. Even when the band turns back toward love songs, Stokes’ words are tender, if uneasy, as exemplified on “Just Shy of Sure.” This reflective side of Stokes is a very welcome change, and it imbues Jump Rope Gazers with the depth that ends up making the album truly memorable.

In many ways, Jump Rope Gazers is everything one would want from a second Beths album. It retains much of what made the first album so instantly appealing while not turning into Part II of what came before. The Beths’ natural talent was pretty self-evident from the get-go, so it’s not exactly surprising that Jump Rope Gazers is as good as it is. Even so, the growth and maturity demonstrated on this album is indicative of just how special they are. They’ve crafted something that encompasses both peppy excitement and affecting emotional depth, and that can’t be regarded as anything less than a triumph.

Summary
Jump Rope Gazers is everything one would want from a second Beths album.
80 %
Excitingly resonant
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