Following their fine-tuned debut record ‘When My Heart Felt Volcanic’, The Aces have returned two years later with a bold new vision. ‘Under My Influence’ strives to explore the alt-pop band’s new signature style.
Returning with reinvention in mind, this Utah girl gang are back. While their first album laid the groundwork for infectious soft pop, ‘Under My Influence’ stands to draw against the grain as the women wield a grunge-inspired, washed out aesthetic and a new musical direction.
Leading with ‘Daydream’, the opening track draws you in with the funky rhythmic laying of Katie’s guitar chords alongside Mckenna’s unmistakable bass plucking. Packed with catchy chorus and an unforgettable melody, the song showcases how The Aces are able to effortlessly put together an addictive pop banger. Let’s not forget to mention the intensely pleasing post-chorus guitar riff with holds the song together.
Making your way through the album, it becomes increasingly clear where the record’s strengths lie and it’s in the singles. ‘My Phone Is Trying To Kill Me’ is one the band’s first songs to languish in gendered descriptions around Cristal’s suspected love interest. Superseding expectation, the song is something of a mini anthem with self-aware splattered lyrics on our generational obsessions with our screens.
Setting our unhealthy attitudes set against the sombre track, lines: “On read / I feel hopeless / Trying to live in the moment / I check that screen just one more time” are that stark pop-packaged reminder that we all have our moments.
‘Lost Angeles’ takes us on a nostalgia road tip where The Aces tap into their craft of scene setting and storytelling. There’s no doubt the late placed song offers a welcoming break to a few back to back filler tracks. Released during Pride Month, ‘Kelly’ continues to be a song that I struggle with. A song of emotional anguish, Cristal’s stressed vocals bring the lyrics to life, but the chorus, for me, borders on irritable. Then again, maybe I’m just too much of a cynic. The colourful composition and honesty of the track has seemingly pushed the track as a fan favourite.
As the album progresses, the latter portion of the erratically comes together offering a patchwork collection of songs that don’t quite compliment on another. ‘Cruel’ floats through, drifting across as a product of excitable experimentation but lacks the seasoned depth we expect from The Aces. Mellow and down-tempo, ‘Going Home’ pours out as what should have been a neatly produced ending. Blending signature instrumentals and candid lyrics, the song captures the powerful longing nostalgia of The Aces first record. This intricate ending is upset by the stark unfinished feeling of ‘Zillionaire’ which trails in like a rough-cut demo.
‘Under My Influence’ is a bold undertaking, but, at times, it feels unfinished. While many singles and supplementary songs showcase the band’s talent, much of the record weighs in as forgettable filler sounds that take some time in getting accustomed to. Still, the sophomore album stands as the embers to a greater fire. Although the record may seem like an experimental, transitional package, the punchy singles remind us that with a little more nuance, The Aces are not too far behind a cracking record.
Words: Zoya Raza-Sheikh
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