Medium Rotation — Expert in a Dying Field; Cool It Down

THE BETHS Expert in a Dying Field (Carpark) — Elizabeth Stokes, frontwoman for the Beths, describes her band’s output as ““sweetly sung melodies and super-depressing lyrics.” That’s not only a very suitable description of the Beths’ material, particularly on the relentlessly great new album Expert in a Dying Field, it also explains why they’re such worth torch bearers for the eternal flame of New Zealand pop rock that was arguably lit by Split Enz and carried most capably previously by the Chills. Across the album, the Beths roar through smartly constructed songs that roar and bounce and generally set the heart aswirl. The title cut opens the album and sets the tone (and a very high bar) with its bruising sentiments delivered with an irresistible lilt. “Silence Is Golden” is dizzying in exuberant energy and “Your Side” has the cuddly spirit tinged with piquancy of vintage Rilo Kiley (“But here I go again, mixing drinks and messages/ So I’ll say it plain, baby/ I want to see you, I want to hear you say/ Don’t cry, I’m on the next flight/ To be by your side”). Even the simplest song has impressive heft, and when they expand their sound a bit, it’s commanding enough to fill the most cavernous space. With a little boost to its synthy tremor “Best Left” could be the showstopper in a Chvrches set list. If the Beths are experts in dying field, at least that expertise is resonantly apparent. Keep going with the following tracks: “Knees Deep,” “Head in the Clouds,” the almost Alanis-like “When You Know You Know,” and “I Told You That I Was Afraid.”

YEAH YEAH YEAHS Cool It Down (Secretly Canadian) — Almost a decade has come and gone since the last time Yeah Yeah Yeahs puts out a full-length studio albums, and what an exhausting pile-up of years that’s been. For Cool It Down, the trio doesn’t exactly pick up where they left off, but they don’t sound like they’ve gone through some massive reinvention either/ Instead, the material comes across as the product of an ongoing evolution that took place on phantom albums in between. They’re not responding to changes in the alternative scene. They just are, like they’ve always been That sense is undoubtedly bolstered by the lingering, luxuriant aura of frontwoman Karen O’s recent collaboration with Danger Mouse. The vibrant theatricality of “Wolf” is commandeered by a deep house groove that sharpens the edge of the lyrics (“Don’t leave me now, don’t break the spell/ In Heaven, lost my taste for Hell”). If there’s sometimes a little more tenderness present on the album than is expected, that doesn’t mean the band has entirely abandoned their former brashness. “Spitting Off the End of the World” reclaims the boisterous intensity that Savages slipped out of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ deck. Mostly, though, Cool It Down does present a band at ease with itself, any desperation to establish indie credibility long since dissipated. Maybe it’s been a while, but they know how to do this rock ‘n’ roll thing. And how. In addition to the previously mentioned cuts, heat things up with “Fleez,” “Burning,” and the tingly, slight eerie “Mars.”

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