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CD of The Week

Week of 9/19/22

    The Beths - Expert In A Dying Field (Carpark)

    Is there such a thing as a feel-good break-up record? That possibility is essentially what drives The Beths’ latest release Expert In A Dying Field. It’s an album full of the expected distortion, pop hooks, and harmonies that have become hallmarks of their sound mixed with raw post-breakup feelings. It’s not necessarily a concept album, rather it is more an exercise of their artistic formula put to the test. And while the end product isn’t as immediately engaging as their first two full-lengths, there is still plenty to enjoy.

    On full display here is the true depth of the band’s ability to write any kind of song. The title track opens the records and sets the tone for what’s to come. That energy is carried over into the next track “Knees Deep”. Both tunes feature introspective lyrics that again tackle interpersonal emotions in a way that vocalist Elizabeth Stokes has spent her career mastering. “Silence is Golden” is up next and is another upbeat song about feeling down. After all, haven’t we all been there? Feeling down and just want some peace and quiet? The irony of this tune being the loudest on the album is a great final touch.

    The real treat in listening to this album is really hearing the band gel together. Harmonies and backing vocals provided by Jonathan Pearce and Benjamin Sinclair are clear and crisp to the point that you don’t even immediately recognize just how much they’re elevating each song. The layering of vocals definitely gives hints of The Unlovables mixed with Hop Along. There’s also some seriously good lead guitar work from Pearce (“I Told You That I Was Afraid” is a definite standout).

    The album does lag a little in the middle, but don’t let that dissuade you. Even when The Beths miss the mark, there is still enough to appreciate to garner repeat listens. And maybe that’s the album’s greatest challenge. In writing an album dealing with similar pathos from previous releases but with some more complexity to the production, perhaps Expert In A Dying Field will stand the test of time given frequent listens. That in and of itself is what sets The Beths apart from most indie rock bands out there today, ironically making them experts in a (not so) dying field.

    See The Beths back in Philly next year on March 3rd at Union Transfer.
    Review by Keith Obaza

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