By Davis Blount
After a stellar debut in 2018, The Aces were ready to take the next step musically. Touring to sold out crowds across the country on the strength of their first album, When My Heart Felt Volcanic, the band clearly had time to sharpen their craft and develop a more unique sound. The Aces’ sophomore effort, Under My Influence, exudes all the confidence of a band solidly in their bag, and the music is all the better for it.
The first thing that is immediately clear when listening to this album is the freedom with which the band performs. Cristal Ramirez has quickly become one of the most distinctive and enjoyable voices in pop music. But don’t be fooled; while Cristal Ramirez’s vocals shine on Under My Influence, it is impossible to ignore the skills of Alisa Ramirez on drums, McKenna Petty on bass, and Katie Henderson on lead guitar. The band has become a more cohesive unit and displays a level of technical excellence that was not as present on their previous album.
Oftentimes, bands must make a choice between delivering earworms with mass market appeal and avoiding losing the things that make the band unique. Here, The Aces walk that tightrope with skill and to great effect, with nearly every song on the album a potential hit single without sacrificing their distinctive sound.
Under My Influence is an album that finds the band in a time of transition. Taken away from the homes of their youth, the group is now forced to reconcile their feelings of alienation and othering from all sides. Having outgrown Utah without feeling completely comfortable in “Lost Angeles,” where does one call home? Part of the answer may be found in the song “801,” an anti-anthem to the Beehive State. Subtle enough yet unflinching in their criticism, “801” shines a light on Utah’s sometimes oppressive homogenous culture. The song opens as such:
Growin’ up in the 801,
There’s only one club so we blow it up.
Leave your church shoes and your Sunday clothes,
But bring your guilt, cause we gon’ let it go.
While the sentiment shared in “801” may not mimic the feelings of all native Utahans, it’s h*ckin’ time that the state make way for more alternative ways of living. For those who may feel that they live in Utah but not of Utah, this is the song for you.
The Aces’ Under My Influence is a complete effort, an album with very few weak points. If anything, it is exciting to see where the band will go from here. While this album amply proves that they can match the quality and mass appeal of pop heavyweights like Dua Lipa, the skill on display begs for even more exploration into the band’s limits, leaving listeners anxious for the band to strike newer ground on future releases. All said, the sky is the limit for The Aces. One can only hope they continue to push themselves sonically and stylistically as they forge ahead.
During the When My Heart Felt Volcanic era of The Aces, the band would refer to themselves and their fans as “moguls.” The closing track to Under My Influence, “Zillionaire,” suggests that the band has raised their sights even higher. With an impressive catalog of bona fide hits, these moguls are now ready to chase fortunes untold. As the song’s lyrics suggest, however, the riches they seek can’t be bought or paid for. Let’s hope that some of that fortune continues to spill over into their musicmaking, making way for even greater heights on upcoming projects.
Make sure to follow The Aces on Instagram. You can listen to “801″ below!