Bethan: Time Gone By

Release Date: Oct. 7, 2014

One of the best surprises last year came in the form of Dallas-based Bethan’s Christmas EP. I was excited to get my hands on their new full-length Time Gone By, to hear their luxuries sounds on original material. I wasn’t disappointed.

The record opens with “Low Expectations”, a track that resonated so deeply as a personal life motto: “The secret to happiness is low expectations.” The lilting pace of the melody is brilliantly off-set by singer Jessi Hall’s syncopated delivery. The low-fi guitar tones are counter-balanced by sweeping strings. While it’s hard to compare Bethan to anyone else out there, the band sites influences as varied as Tom Waits and Gershwin. I, for one, hear shades of modern Charlotte Church fused with the smokiness of jazz songstress Diana Krall.

I’m often nervous about artists who deviate too much in their sound from track to track. While the variance between these songs is not jarring, there is an interesting feeling that the listener is being taken on a journey as much through style as through melody or lyric. There are hints of jazz and even cabaret, but a thoroughly modern thread weaves the tracks together. Hall’s voice has an old-soul quality about it that is strong when it needs to be (“Beside Me”) and breezy when the song demands it (“Honeymoon”).

As a whole, this is a great record – though I would say it is “moody” and requires a bit more attention than just being something that you put on in the car during your commute. The first half is fantastic, but with a bar set so high, the second half doesn’t maintain the same momentum. Check out a live performance below, then go buy it.