One goal for this blog this year is to engage with new music more regularly, and I’m planning to feature a feature length review of a recent release each month.
The Beths are from Auckland, New Zealand, and Future Me Hates Me is their debut album. Like one of my favourite 2017 records, Charly Bliss’ Guppy, their power pop is rooted in 1990s guitar-rock. But where Charly Bliss’ vocals are high pitched and excitable, The Beths’ Elizabeth Stokes is a typically deadpan New Zealander.
Stokes’ likeable, low key personality is up front in the album’s most immediate song; the title track has Stokes delivering self-effacing lines like:
Future heart break, future headaches
Wide eyed nights late lying awake
With future cold shakes from stupid mistakes
Future me hates me for, hates me for
The four members of The Beths met at jazz school, although guitarist Jonathan Pearce stated that playing jazz provided a “very clear idea of what we didn’t want to do”. Instead the group reverted to the music they loved in their youth, 1990s guitar rock, infused with the pop sense of The Breeders’ ‘Cannonball’ or Weezer’s Blue Album. As a result, the members of the group are playing their secondary instruments; Stokes worked as a trumpet teacher before concentrating on The Beths.
While the group’s instrumental prowess isn’t a focus, their musical training shows the most clearly in their vocal arrangements, which are often relatively intricate. On songs like ‘Happy Unhappy’, the hooks come from the surprisingly ornate backing vocals.
Power pop can be a limiting genre, but there’s enough boundary pushing to suggest that The Beths have ideas beyond punchy guitars and big choruses. ‘River Run: Lvl 1’ and ‘Less Than Thou’, both towards the back end of Future Me Hate Me, features slower tempos and sludgier guitars.
The Beths have received plenty of attention for this excellent 2018 debut, with positive write-ups in taste makers like Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. I’m a little embarrassed it’s taken me so long to pick up on it – I only noticed when it started placing well on year end lists – but it’s an excellent record, wry and tuneful.
You can purchase Future Me Hates Me from Bandcamp: https://thebethsnz.bandcamp.com/album/future-me-hates-me