The Beths’ sophomore album, Jump Rope Gazers, does precisely what you want a second album to do: it lets the band sound older, wiser, and even more talented. Jump Rope Gazers begins with “I’m Not Getting Excited,” which acts as a great segue from their last release in 2018. Here, the energetic guitar-forward rock is in keeping with their debut release, while Liz Stokes’ relatively delicate vocals leap and glide over an elastic rhythm. The tone of the song is equally keeping with their trademark attitude, as it expresses a cautious pessimism and a habit to self-guard against vulnerability.
Those traits are laced throughout Jump Rope Gazers, but just as Stokes and her bandmates Jonathan Pearce, Ben Sinclair, and Tristan Deck, experiment with and expand their musical palette, the lyrics too dig into new and intimate spaces. The enjoyment of this album comes from the variety of ways the Beths explore these innermost anxieties and confessions. In tracks like “I’m Not Getting Excited,” “Dying to Believe,” and “Mars, the God of War,” the Beths respectively explore intentional pessimism, the challenge of confrontation, and the ease of computer-facilitated arguments amid energetic and propulsive rock songs.
On the other hand, some of the most compelling and truly endearing songs on the album are songs in which the Beths let themselves slow down. “Jump Rope Gazers” is instantly charming, as a love song in which the singer struggles with just admitting the love that is there. Stokes begins the song brilliantly, with the humorous anticlimax of, “I’ve never been the dramatic type/ But if I don’t see your face tonight/ I guess I’ll be fine.” That echoes perfectly the “I’m Not Getting Excited” spirit of the album opener, as Stokes conveys through her vulnerable vocals the determination not to appear as fully in love as she is. Regardless, by the chorus’s approach, she realizes that “I think I love you/ and I think that I loved you the whole time,” as the music soars with her honesty.
A similar charming vulnerability exists on “Do You Want Me Now,” in which Stokes sings as someone genuinely wondering if her partner has lost interest in their relationship or its possibility. “You are a Beam of Light” comes late in the album and especially surprises the listener, because it is an acoustic track with no percussion. It is completely different than the typical Beths sound, but by the end of Jump Rope Gazers, it feels entirely fitting. Stokes sings, “we live in darker times… you are a beam of light, maybe that’s why your battery runs dry,” in an instance of several succinct and touching lyrics throughout the album. Throughout Jump Rope Gazers, the Beths prove that they are more than clever, millennial rock. Their sound is not limited to fast and loud rock but can slow down and go quiet. Their songs are not just catchy, self-deprecating hooks but also succinct examinations of self-doubt, friendship, and romance.
One of the most grounded and relatable songs on the album, “Don’t Go Away,” is a perfect example of that sweet and sour Beths sound. While the up-tempo and high-energy guitars are definitely present, Stokes sings with just a little bit of annoyance at her friends who were stifled by a small town and left for greater things. Stokes’s voice conveys her real thought that she just wants her friend here. The singer asks, “When you come back this time, will you stay? / If you’re coming back/ Are you coming back?” The mix throughout of genuine love as well as selfish desires (“I just want to be your best friend!”) makes this song emotionally textured and compelling.
There are just a mere couple of slow spots on the album, in which the guitar rock starts to feel slightly less compelling. But for the large part, this 10-track album is wonderfully efficient, bouncing from one song to the next and one accessible and honest emotion to the next. There is no song here someone couldn’t personally relate to and adopt as their personal soundtrack. On Jump Rope Gazers, The Beths remain accessible, down-to-earth, and as fun as they were on their debut album. Their willingness to broaden their sound and broach new territory only signals more reasons why we should be excited about each new Beths release.