New Zealand’s the Beths trade jazz for the pleasures of indie pop | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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New Zealand’s the Beths trade jazz for the pleasures of indie pop


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It may come as a surprise to find out that all of the members of Auckland four-piece the Beths are university-trained jazz musicians; their catchy, direct indie pop seems as far from jazz as Western music could get. But listening to vocalist and guitarist Elizabeth Stokes discuss the influence of jazz standards in a recent interview with Substream Magazine makes the line between their education and their recorded output more clear. “I like how succinct [jazz standards] are at putting out an idea or a concept or a theme,” she explains. “You never finish a song like, ‘What was that song about?’” That sentiment comes through on the Beths’ debut album, Future Me Hates Me, especially on highlight “River Run: Lvl 1,” when Stokes paints a visceral portrait of anxiety as a river that carries her “out of view” from friends and family. “I’m filling up with vapor / But when the cold sinks in a little later / A river will run,” she sings while guitars hammer away with the motion and intensity of a waterfall. That feeling of resignation runs through the album, but the quartet counterweights the heaviness with stunningly bright guitar riffs and charmingly exuberant vocal harmonies—it’s a delicate line to walk, but the Beths make it seem easy. The band made their first Chicago appearance at the Empty Bottle earlier this year, and as Future Me has made them critical darlings (they’ve already been featured by Rolling Stone, NPR, and Pitchfork, among other outlets), tonight’s show might be your last chance to catch them in town in such an intimate setting.   v

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