The Beths – Expert in a Dying Field (Album Review)

The Beths – Expert in a Dying Field (Album Review)

The New Zealand–hailing Indie Rockers known as The Beths slowly rose to prominence via their groundbreaking singles “Whatever,” “Lying in the Sun,” and “Great No One.” Effectively combining the Twee Pop sweetness of Elizabeth Stokes’s voice (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and the Shoegaze/Noise Rock–stylized guitar pyrotechnics of Jonathan Pearce (lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), while being rounded off by Benjamin Sinclair (bass, backing vocals) along with Tristan Deck (drums, backing vocals, percussion), The Beths have continued along a road of success for nearly a decade. Released their debut full-length, Future Me Hates Me, in 2018; and then followed this up with Jump Rope Gazers two years later, now, The Beths rise again with new music.

Coming out on September 16, 2022, via Carpark/Rough Trade/Ivy League Records, The Beths’ third offering, Expert in a Dying Field, is a very personal album primarily recorded at Pearce’s studio on Karangahape Road in Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa. 

Consisting of twelve new songs, it opens with the subtle drive of the lovely title-track, immediately taking you to a place in between the then and the now—nostalgic and current at the same time; “Love is learned over time ’til you’re an expert in a dying field,” croons Stokes heartrendingly. The engaging and buildup beat then goes on with the ensuing “Knees Deep,” which hits home like any upbeat Indie ballad. 

Moving forward, they then surprise you with the frenetic sunburst of “Silence Is Golden,” whose progressive dynamics of the unassuming vocals and the guitar ad-lib that suddenly explodes like a supernova should be enough to catapult the entire album onto the top of the charts; it merits inclusion onto a playlist that includes classics like Smashing Pumpkins’ “Cherub Rock,” The Breeders’ “Cannonball,” Belly’s “Not Too Soon,” and Rumblefish’s “What You Do to Me.”

The Beths then turn jangly and romantic with the graceful, forlorn love song “Your Side” and the playful, bubblegum-pop “I Want to Listen,” which puts the band alongside the likes of Camera Obscura (“I Don’t Do Crowds”), The Primitives (“Crash”), and Voice of the Beehive (“I Say Nothing”). Another jump-causing stomper then plays next—the infectiously melodic “Head in the Clouds.” 

The following “Best Left,” on the other hand, stands out with its Shoegaze/Dreampop sensibilities, whereas “Change in the Weather ” is a galloping wonder sprinkled with slight syncopation. The groovy “When You Know You Know” slows down the mood, relaxing you for a while and may remind the initiated of songs like “Sway” by Bic Runga, “Buses and Trains” by Bachelor Girl, and “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia. And then there is “A Passing Rain,” which sways like an Indie Rock lullaby.

After another frenzied affair in the form of “I Told You That I Was Afraid,” The Beths finally wrap up their unmissable new album aptly with the slow, plucked-guitar balladry of “2am,” swinging the listener to silent slumber yet craving for more sweet-sour sonic reverie.

Relatively new, having formed in Auckland only eight years ago, The Beths proves that there will always be golden music not only in the past but also in the present. If “Silence Is Golden” is not enough to make you fall in love with the band’s music, then the problem resides in your auditory sense of, or maybe you are simply aromantic; and that is your loss. An even more explosively beautiful record than their prior efforts, Cryptic Rock gives Expert in a Dying Field 5 out of 5 stars.

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aLfie vera mella
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Born in 1971, in Metro Manila, Philippines, aLfie vera mella is a healthcare worker, singer/songwriter, and editor/writer. He was the frontman of the ’90s-peaking Philippine Alternative Rock / New Wave band Half Life Half Death, which released a full-length album and several singles on Viva Records. aLfie worked at Diwa Scholastic Press as an editor/writer of academic textbooks and supplementary magazines, focusing on Science & Technology and English Grammar & Literature. In 2003, aLfie migrated to Canada; he has since been living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He works full-time at a healthcare institution, while serving as the associate contributing editor of Filipino Journal—a local community newspaper in Winnipeg—tackling Literature, Languages, Cultures, Lifestyles, and Music. aLfie has been a music journalist since the mid-’90s for various print magazines as well as websites. He started writing album reviews for Cryptic Rock in 2015. In 2016, aLfie published Part One (Literature & Languages and Their Cultural Significance) of his Essay Series, Can You Hear the Sound of a Falling Leaf?; in 2021, his first book of poetry, Pag-íhip sa Dáhon ng Kahápon [Blowing Leaves of Yesterday]. In his spare time, he enjoys reading books and listening to music. aLfie is a dedicated father to his now 13-year-old son, Evawwen; and a loving husband to Kathryn Mella, who herself moonlights also as a writer aside from holding a degree in Bachelor of Arts, Major in Sociology.

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