The plush and luminous soundscapes of The Aces’ sophomore album Under My Influence make it pure pop perfection. The Provo, Utah quartet made major musical headway with their 2018 debut album When My Heart Felt Volcanic. Consisting of sisters Cristal and Alisa Ramirez, McKenna Petty and Katie Henderson, the group showed just how well they specialize in both confectionary melodies and luxurious sonic cohesion. But their sophomore effort displays The Aces’ ability to balance palpable growth with an innate understanding of what makes an infectious radio hit.
Opening track “Daydream” is an upbeat introduction to an unapologetically adventurous project; cascading vocals and swirling rhythms make it the ultimate feel-good listen. “New Emotion” effortlessly continues in this direction as the successor to “Daydream” (you can practically feel the sunshine emanating from the song’s chorus). The Aces delve deep into social media pitfalls pretty early on with “My Phone Is Trying To Kill Me.” While the title comes off as slightly cliché (and a little melodramatic), its messaging is anything but.
The “monster in [her] pocket” that singer-guitarist Cristal references is an unending source of anger, loneliness and anxiety—a common sentiment for fellow twenty-somethings. What stands out about the record is the fact the girls don’t shy away from discussing romantic relationships with women. Cristal and Alisa both identify as queer, but they never really alluded to it on When My Heart Felt Volcanic.
On Under My Influence, a ballad like “Kelly” bravely explores the power of attraction and longing that is potent regardless of gender. “Can You Do” is an erotic and daunting fast-paced thrill ride, while the sparse and ruminative dramatics of “All Mean Nothing” bring the true gravity of longing to light. “801” acknowledges the conservative nature of the band’s hometown as well as the importance of staying true to who you are.
The Aces try their hand at turning the tables on “I Can Break Your Heart Too,” but their ethereal harmonies and sweet cadence prove too pleasant to feel spiteful. “Lost Angeles” predictably positions itself as the album’s quintessential breakup anthem, but the metaphor for experiencing heartache in the city becomes excessive.
“Cruel” is perhaps the most captivating track on the album; it’s emotionally bare and harrowing in its delivery. “Going Home,” with its pleasant and seamless introduction, contains beauty through simple melodies and lyricism (“As long as it’s you and I / It feels like I’m going home”). Under My Influence’s last track, “Zillionaire,” ends on a soulful and fun note that brings the album full circle.
It’s clear that The Aces set out to be alt-pop powerhouses from the very beginning of their career. Their natural inclination toward lofty compositions, memorable choruses and vivid storytelling make them a true modern treasure. This record encapsulates a unit who have perfected their chemistry so much that they are approaching their prime with precision, passion and grace. As the ladies continue to propel forward, it’s important to remember Under My Influence as a bold collection of thoughts and experiences that tap into a generation of women who maybe don’t even know they need it.
Candace McDuffie is a culture writer whose work has appeared in outlets like Rolling Stone, MTV, NBC News, and Entertainment Weekly. You can follow her on Instagram @candace.mcduffie.