Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Connor Brooker, Bugs – The Beths, Future Me Hates Me(2018)
Allow me to set the scene. It’s late last year in Wollongong, we’re in town for Yours and Owls festival and, having played the day previous, we are looking forward to a nice relaxing way to wind down the weekend. 12 hours prior I had been a vomiting wreck moments before going on stage (another story about the perils of red wine/no sleep) so I wasn’t in any position to be charging into the second evening. My best mates (our manager and booking agent) suggested I come and see this band they had both been raving about for the better part of 6 months from New Zealand.
I don’t know what I was expecting but I trusted their judgement and had remembered hearing this same band play an acoustic set in a camp tent at Splendour six months prior but didn’t retain much of that due to a sleepless night / wretched hangover (starting to sound like I have a problem). We rolled into this packed stage, the same we had played the night before – from the first chord I was absolutely awestruck. The Beths played the album front to back and it was my first introduction to Future Me Hates Me.
I’m not generally one for comparisons in music, but I never imagined a band could capture my attention quite like The Beths. We all have favourites, my proud pedestal band for about 5 years has been Cloud Nothings – for the first time ever I have found a musician and a sound that speaks so directly to me it evokes a response unparalleled – I am addicted, I cannot get enough. Elizabeth Stokes just writes flawlessly perfect, disarming and honest songs. The lyrical content throughout the whole album is so consistently unguarded it fosters this warming sense of security for the listener. How can you not feel connected to songs about such intimate subject matter? These are emotional concepts that often necessitate articulate communication but The Beths deliver it in such simple, easy-to-relate-to material.
Their use of bright sunny harmonies to mask depressing themes adds this melancholic feel I love so much. Spattered throughout the record are moments of triumph sonically that are actually making you think introspectively about some pretty heavy topics. I think that’s a really important thing to be trying to do as an artist, and they make me think about how I interpret what they are saying A LOT. When it comes to the bones of the songs from a musical perspective – the application of taste is just so up my ally. From the space in their mixes, the tones of their guitars, the use of harmonics and overall structuring of songs (and the album) to take you on a journey are all skills not lost on me. I really appreciate the thought and hard work that must have gone in to execute an album this remarkably well.
Songs like the title track and ‘Little Death’ illustrate the band’s furious control over chaos. They add such an element of precision on top of how erratic things are it is almost contradictory. They shift gears to slower ballads that really tug at the hearts strings. And the best part? No middle of the road filler songs. Every song on this album has a unique place and I personally feel needs to be there. I can’t skip anything.
It’s a timeless sound that isn’t trying to capitalise on anything disingenuous, and it’s coming from a pocket of the world you might never expect. The Kiwi music community is SO CRIMINALLY OVERLOOKED on the global market. Their contributions to music aren’t underestimated by myself and The Beths are the most recent addition to the list of icons NZ has produced.
I’m so thankful for that day, and I know people generally look more to their past for a formative influence when doing these love letters – but the impact this album has had on me is so profound it would feel unjust to ignore it. Thanks for reading if you’ve stuck it out Stream Bugs’ latest single ‘Can’t Get Enough’.