On their sophomore record, Under My Influence, The Aces have fully come to terms with who they are as people as well as artists. Led by the trio of singles such as “Daydream,” “My Phone is Trying To Kill Me,” and “Kelly,” The Aces have rounded out their sound that they introduced to the world on their debut, When My Heart Felt Volcanic. As great as their debut LP was, their second record feels more authentic, raw, and present. The most noticeable difference between this record and their debut is their improved songwriting. Also, in recent interviews, the band mentioned their conscious effort to embrace who they truly are by using the proper pronouns in the lyrics to describe their relationships. “Having not used pronouns, I don’t know if we could have gone as deep and personal on this record as we did. That is really just the truth,” Cristal Ramirez remarks. “It was this obvious thing that had to go hand in hand. To get more personal, you have to get more specific and actually bare your soul. Those were the stories of our life. We were dating women, and I was having a lot of different relationships start and end. It had to happen to make this album.” What we are left with is The Aces most honest artistic statement to date.
The topic of falling in and out of relationships is prevalent on this record with songs such as “Kelly,” “Thought of You,” and especially “New Emotion.” Lead singer, Cristal Ramirez explores her sexuality on the aforementioned track when she sings on the chorus, “What’s this new emotion that I’m feeling when I’m around you? / What’s this now? I’m losing sleep / I can’t stop thinking about you / Never felt this with you before / We were friends, now I want more / Would you take it wrong if I leaned in for a kiss now, babe? / What’s this new emotion that I’m feeling when I’m around you?” By embracing her newfound freedom on this album, it’s hard to not cheer for her and her bandmates as they explore all that goes into showing the world who they are.
Other songs such as the fantastic opener, “Daydream” are more reminiscent of the sound The Aces went for on their debut, but with improved musicianship and song structures. The song itself is in the same vein as bands such as HAIM, The 1975, and Paramore, but make no mistake in understanding that this is music that The Aces want to be creating. The breezy track makes for the perfect introduction for the music that flows freely afterward.
Cristal goes into further exploration of disconnecting from social media on “My Phone is Trying to Kill Me,” where she sings about the dangers of being too plugged in and how easy it can be too obsessed with our devices. With lyrics such as, “Fucked up, drinking, smoking / Trying to live in the moment, I check that screen just one more time / My phone is trying to kill me / On read, I feel hopeless / Trying live in the moment, I check that screen just one more time / My phone is trying to kill me.” Their younger audience will likely identify with the emotions that they describe on songs such as this, and it shows that these women can go through some of the same struggles as their fans.
The wide breadth of styles found on this record is shown on songs such as “All Mean Nothing,” which is a perfectly crafted pop song about the struggles of trust in a relationship. The reggae-infused track “801” sounds like an updated version of the Sublime classic “Doin’ Time” and with equally-pleasing results. The song explores Cristal’s relationship with her girlfriend as they become “the stars of the show” at their local dance club.
“Lost Angeles” describes the feelings of loneliness in a big city, and the problematic relationships that can go along with navigating that situation. It’s a pretty cool and atmospheric type of song that takes the listener on a journey down Sunset Boulevard with some great guitar riffs along the way. The improved take on describing their headspace and overall emotions feels richer and more textured on this record.
Other songs such as “Not Enough” describe the feelings of determining your worth in a one-sided relationship. The cool pop music elements on this song are accentuated by the great guitar playing from Cristal Ramirez and Katie Henderson. It’s a heartbreaking type of song that deeply connects their audience directly to themselves in the most intricate of ways.
“Going Home” highlights the emotions that come from finding that one person that makes you feel more alive than you could ever imagine. Cristal outlines these feelings beautifully in the chorus when she sings, “Well, you could name a place and time / There’s nowhere that I wouldn’t go / As long as it’s just you and I / It feels like I’m going home / Well, you can turn the keys and drive / It doesn’t matter where we go as long as it’s just you and I / It feels like I’m going home.” It feels like the singer is finally coming to terms with the person she’s in a relationship with, and the comfort she feels makes for a cathartic experience.
Overall, I came away from Under My Influence with a greater appreciation for The Aces’ music and songwriting. They have made a brave step by telling the world who they really are, and hopefully, their audience will appreciate their honesty and authenticity found in this record. I look forward to seeing the other thematic elements that the band will likely explore on their subsequent albums that they release in their promising career.