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Players: Cristal Ramirez, vocals, guitar; Katie Henderson, guitar; McKenna Petty, bass; Alisa Ramirez, drums
Material: July saw the release of Under My Influence, the sophomore album from Utah alt-pop band The Aces, and the follow-up to 2018’s critically acclaimed When My Heart Felt Volcanic. “I think our sound has just become a lot more free when we create music,” frontwoman Cristal Ramirez recently told this writer. “We feel less pressure to be anything, and maybe that’s because on our first album it feels like we established a sound and a fan base, more importantly, that really feels devoted to our band.” That’s reasonable––the lack of pressure has resulted in a series of tracks that feel airy and joyful, even when the lyrics are raw and honest. This live-streamed show saw them perform the album in L.A. for their fans across the world, and their freer direction is immediately highlighted by show/album opener “Daydream.” While the band clings on to the alt/indie tags, the music has a strong disco vibe in the very best sense. It’s dance-heavy pop with a mildly cynical edge, and that makes for a fascinating juxtaposition.
Musicianship: Zero complaints. The musicians that make up The Aces are all individually strong. Drummer Alisa Ramirez is the sibling of singer/guitarist Cristal Ramirez, yet it is the rhythm section with bassist McKenna Petty that has formed a solid unit. No meat and potatoes playing though––the pair add glorious frills to what is already colorful pop. Meanwhile, Katie Henderson is a wonderfully expressive guitar player. Cristal Ramirez can play too, though often doesn’t and Henderson can more than hold her own.
Performance: Knowing full well that there are a lot of eyes on them all over the globe, and that the show is being replayed a number of times afterward, The Aces put on a great show. Full of life and incorporating some cool lighting, the experience was quite invigorating even from home. They look like they’ve been missing the experience of performing live, and this is as good as things get right now.
Summary: The wonderful thing about The Aces is that they’re practically impossible to shove into a cookie-cutter genre box. This record is strong on the alt-pop vibe, but if their next album had a sharper punk rock edge we wouldn’t be particularly surprised. That’s quite a power––the ability to do whatever they want at this stage in the career and not bump. What they actually do next will be well worth watching.