The Beths Expert In A Dying Field
On The Beths’ new album Expert In A Dying Field, Elizabeth Stokes’ songwriting positions her somewhere between being a novelist and a documentarian. The songs collected here are autobiographical, but they’re also character sketches of relationships – platonic, familial, romantic – and more importantly, their aftermaths. The shapes and ghosts left in absences. The question that hangs in the air: what do you do with how intimately versed you’ve become in a person, once they’re gone from your life?
The third LP from the New Zealand quartet houses 12 jewels of tight, guitar-heavy songs that worm their way into your head, an incandescent collision of power-pop and skuzz. With Expert, The Beths wanted to make an album meant to be experienced live, for both the listeners and themselves. They wanted it to be fun — to hear, to play — in spite of the prickling anxiety throughout the lyrics, the fear of change and struggle to cope.
Most of Expert was recorded at guitarist Jonathan Pearce’s studio on Karangahape Road in Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa (Auckland, New Zealand) — and sometimes in the building’s cavernous stairwell at 1am — toward the end of 2021, until they were interrupted by a four-month national lockdown. They traded notes remotely for months, songwriting from afar and fleshing out the arrangements alone, the first time they’d written together in such a way. The following February, The Beths left the country for the first time in more than two years to tour across the US, and simultaneously finish mixing the album on the road. That latter half felt more collaborative, with everyone on-hand to trade notes in real time, until it all culminated in a chaotic three-day studio mad-dash in Los Angeles. There, Expert finally became the record they were hearing in their heads.
Expert is an extension of the same skuzzy palette the band has built across their catalog, pop hooks embedded in incisive indie rock. The album’s title track “Expert In A Dying Field” introduces the thesis for the record: “How does it feel to be an expert in a dying field? How do you know it’s over when you can’t let go?” Stokes asks. “Love is learned over time ‘til you’re an expert in a dying field.”
The rest is a capsule of The Beths’ most electrifying and exciting output, a sonic spectrum: “Your Side” is a forlorn and sincere love song, emotive; while “Silence is Golden,” with its propulsive drum line and stop-start staccato of a guitar line winding up and down, is one of the band’s sharpest and most driving. “When You Know You Know” skews a bit groovier, pure pop and a natural addition to the band’s live set. “Knees Deep” was written last minute, but yields one of the best guitar lines on Expert. There’s a certain chaos across the 12 tracks, the palpable joy of playing music with long-time friends colliding with the raw nerves of pain.
Stokes strings it all together through her singular songwriting lens, earnest and self-effacing, zeroing in on the granules of doubt and how they snowball. Did I do the wrong thing? Or did you? And are we still good people at the end of it? She isn’t interested in villains, but instead interested in just telling the story. That insecurity and thoughtfulness, translated into universality and understanding, has been the guiding light of The Beths’ output since 2016. In the face of pain, there’s no dwelling on internal anguish – instead, through The Beths’ music, our shortcomings are met with acceptance. And Expert In A Dying Field is the most tactile that tenderness has been.
The Beths is a band from Auckland, New Zealand composed of vocalist/guitarist Elizabeth Stokes, guitarist Jonathan Pearce, bassist Benjamin Sinclair, and drummer Tristan Deck. Stokes, Pearce, and Sinclair started playing music together when they were in high school, while Deck met them through the local music scene and joined the band in 2019.
The four-piece’s breakout debut Future Me Hates Me was released via Carpark Records in 2018 to international acclaim, hailed by Pitchfork as “one of the most impressive indie-rock debuts of the year.” The next year, The Beths were nominated for five Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards, winning Best Group and Best Alternative Artist. A slew of international touring ensued, with shows supporting Pixies, Death Cab for Cutie and The Breeders; appearances at major international festivals including Primavera Sound, The Great Escape, End of the Road, SXSW, Pickathon and more; and headline tours across North America, the United Kingdom, Europe and Australia. That catapult from working day jobs and playing music in New Zealand into the international spotlight was the catalyst for their second record, Jump Rope Gazers, which chronicles the bizarre leap when touring becomes your full-time job and the unexpected homesickness that comes with success. The record was released in July 2020 to widespread praise, with Rolling Stone calling Jump Rope Gazers “Beatles-level melodic smarts”, The Line of Best Fit naming it an “overwhelmingly thrilling record” and Phoebe Bridgers even told Charli XCX in an interview that “[‘Jump Rope Gazers’] fills me with unbridled joy.“ The album saw The Beths win Album of the Year, Best Group and Best Alternative Artist at New Zealand’s Aotearoa Music Awards later that year.
The Beths spent the rest of 2020 and most of 2021 at home, hosting several live streams for fans and working on new material during the height of the pandemic. They also released Auckland, New Zealand, 2020, the band’s live album and full-length concert film. It was recorded at Auckland Town Hall in November 2020, at a time when New Zealand was one of the few countries where live music was still possible: a small miracle captured on tape and film. In early 2022, The Beths released a standalone single, “A Real Thing,” their first studio release since Jump Rope Gazers.
The Beths’ third and best album, Expert In A Dying Field, will be released on September 16, 2022 via Carpark Records. Its 12 songs explore the same noisy, cerebral indie-rock-meets-power pop of earlier records, but imbued with an electric shock of new confidence: a record meant to be experienced live.
- North American publicity by Pitch Perfect
- College/Non-Commercial and Commercial Specialty radio by Terrorbird, Commercial Alternative radio by Uncle Promo
- Digital Marketing by Blackstar
- Sync licensing by Terrorbird
- Third studio album following two award-winning albums Future Me Hates Me and Jump Rope Gazers and their live album/film Auckland, New Zealand, 2020
- Music videos for “Silence Is Golden,” Expert In A Dying Field,” “Knees Deep,” and “When You Know You Know” in the works
- Pressed on Canary Yellow vinyl and includes digital download card
- Extensive touring in Fall of 2022 and most of 2023
- Expert In A Dying Field
- Knees Deep
- Silence Is Golden
- Your Side
- I Want To Listen
- Head In The Clouds
- Best Left
- Change In The Weather
- When You Know You Know
- A Passing Rain
- I Told You That I Was Afraid