The Beths: Jump Rope Gazers (2020)

The Beths' full-length debut, Future Me Hates Me, was my favorite release of 2018, if not one of my favorite albums of recent years, a non-stop barrage of smile-inducing noise-pop, relentlessly infectious hooks belted out with giddy girlish charm by singer/guitarist/songwriter Elizabeth Stokes. Hell, I've played the wickedly inventive title track dozens of times, and every time I play it I just want to hit rewind and play it again. Definitely the best thing to come from New Zealand since the early heyday of the Clean, Bats, and Chills (but with a much more straightforward power-pop sound).

The follow-up is out today, and I'd assume there'd be at least a hint of sophomore slump, but, nope, another slam-bang great one. Lead-off track "I'm Not Getting Excited," which dropped as a single earlier this year, picks up right where Future Me left off. All the hallmarks are there -- Stokes and her guitar starting things off, the band soon pouncing, the chorus that sticks in your head... and the next track, "Dying to Believe," loses none of the momentum.

I've only had time for one play-through so far, but it's great. A few mellower tunes this time around, with Stokes' winning girl-next-door vocals given a little more breathing room above the guitars, a stripped-down bedroom pop sweetness shining through on tracks like "Do You Want Me Now"; while the dual-guitar attack of Stokes and lead guitarist Jonathan Pearce on the rockers sounds a little more self-assured this time around. But as always, it's the band's seemingly endless well of new hooks -- I'm replaying "Mars, the God of War" again right now, and ooooooh!!! -- that impresses.

Go grab this one; it's a perfect mid-summer pick-me-up. Buy it on Bandcamp today!

Oh, and they just keep making deliriously sweet videos.

"I'm Not Getting Excited":
"Dying To Believe":
Here's the title track:
...and "Out of Sight":