The Beaches' 'Blame My Ex' Is a Win
Published Sep 15, 2023As far as album titles go, you can't get much more pointed than Blame My Ex, the latest pull-no-punches full-length from the Beaches. Released independently, their sophomore album is a testament to newfound freedom in more ways than one. But despite what the title might suggest, this is more than a straightforward breakup album; Exploring themes of self-love, growth and accountability, Blame My Ex is an energetic and playful snapshot depicting the fallout of a broken heart, complete with endlessly hummable earworm melodies.
Since emerging in 2013, sisters Jordan Miller (lead vocals and bass) and Kylie Miller (guitar), drummer Eliza Enman McDaniel, and keyboardist and guitarist Leandra Earl have continuously evolved their brand of pop-inflected rock, harnessing the vibrancy of their live shows and infusing their lyrics with a winking sense of humour. All of these ingredients are present on their latest offering, along with a sense of maturity that in no way makes the album feel less fun.
The record starts with a bang, opening with lead single "Blame Brett," an electrifying missive directed not so much against the titular ex, but at the emotional hangover left in his wake. Heartbreak is the subtext here, but rather than dwell on it, Jordan Miller matter-of-factly rattles off a laundry list of her own red flags to a potential partner, the better (in theory) to pre-empt any hurt feelings. The spectre of her ex takes a backseat as she inventories her own avoidant behaviours, building to an anthemic chorus that doubles as a battle cry for the newly single.
"Me & Me" is similarly energized, revelling in the sense of freedom that can come with being alone and unbothered about finding love at all. On the contrary, it's a blazing rejection of the "pretty shitty" assumption that time spent having fun with your friends, and yourself, is wasted ("Is it really not a win?" Miller earnestly asks). From the opening lines, the track accelerates into a fluid, freewheeling—and pretty compelling—advert for the single life. The last thing Miller wants is for anyone to feel sorry for her, and it's hard to believe that anyone would when she makes being "sexy in the city" sound like so much fun.
While the tone of the album is generally light, it also offers multiple moments of real introspection without feeling self-pitying or indulgent. Miller may declare from the outset that she's "not ready for therapy," but on "Shower Beer," she has enough self awareness to understand her own need to feel seen, even if it's in a way that's fleeting or superficial. Her desire to be talked about and fear of missing out call back to a craving for validation she laments on "What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Paranoid," but on this track, it feels as though she's closer to understanding that need, even if she's not prepared to leave it behind.
The album also conveys the fits-and-starts nature of healing from a broken heart, in one moment ready to cannonball into a seemingly fated new relationship, and in another, withdrawing from the potential of something that feels a little too real. On one hand, the propulsive instrumentation of "Kismet" perfectly captures the heady feeling of a new romance, while its lyrics hint at how something that feels meant to be can also easily be too good to be true. By contrast, "If a Tree Falls," sees them apprehensively trying to create distance in a relationship, finding it easier to ignore an uncomfortable truth than to confront the feelings that come with it.
It's a bittersweet moment that leads into the climactic final track, "Cigarette," a rapid, new wave-y closer that offers a whirling sense of release. Like the record itself, it feels like in inflection point, capturing the sound of a band realizing the scope of their powers, both in the studio and in the world. Here, and throughout Blame My Ex, the Beaches have chemistry and charisma to burn, which would be enough to carry the album through any slow spots or inconsistent patches.
Luckily, there aren't really any of those to speak of; the album is defiant, delirious, and a great ride from start to finish. It's also precise and polished, even if the emotional circumstances it so vividly illustrates feel complex, and at times, pretty messy, capturing a sense of uncertainty and possibility without ever feeling out of control. This is the Beaches at their irrepressible best, buoyed by honesty, humour and a sense that there are even better things yet to come — simply put, it really is a win. (Independent)