Formed of sisters Cristal and Alisa Ramirez and their bandmates Katie Henderson and McKenna Petty. The Aces have been going since the girls got into their respective instruments – around 11 and 12. The combination of literal and mental growth intertwining with musical and lyrical development is unique and is what allows for this well-moulded and seamless record. The Aces manage to combine the energy of their youth with the professional slickness that can only come from the ten years of rehearsing and playing together. The DIY roots of the band can be seen only in the authentic lyrics and melody whilst the production and quality mean that no cracks show.
The Aces could be described under several genre headings. But, the magic of ‘When My Heart Felt Volcanic’ is the way that the group mix the best of pop records – slick production, radio-friendly catchiness and upbeat tracks with the best of indie rock; non-formulaic, creative ideas, swirling guitars and lyrics with honesty and authenticity that listeners can admire.
‘When My Heart Felt Volcanic’ is a straight run of catchy, upbeat melodies that whilst lacking in variety don’t fail to bring a smile to your face in terms of their easy listening simplicity and emotional complexity. The album starts with three stand out tracks. ’Stuck’ is essentially The Aces in a safe, but brilliant place they’ve been comfortable in for years. The clean melody and clear lyrics make this track sharp and professional despite the catchy pep that makes this the perfect hit for the fast-approaching summer months.
Next, ‘Fake Nice’ shows the band with a touch of attitude, marked by vocalist Cristal’s shift from smooth to gravely and hits with powerful lyrics, ‘You never say, anything that I need to, That I need to hear, Yeah I could stay, participate in the bullshit, or get out of here’.
‘Lovin is Bible’, the third of the starting stand out tracks, is, despite its predictable gushy love song form with sickly lyrics, ‘Well you know I’m not religious but, your lovin’ is bible, you can teach me how to speak your language, make me your disciple’, undeniably captivating.
Later, in the album ‘Holiday’ brings a dose of 80’s glam which addresses the complexity and confusion of love in its sheen and sterility. The Aces have managed to keep clean the potential dizzying lyrics – ‘You say you want a holiday, want a holiday, I know just how to be your escape, but you don’t, don’t do anything, give me anything’ – with fresh vocals and instrumentation. Probably the key stand out track on the album though is ‘Put It on the Line’ which is so different to the rest. Perhaps it is precisely this that makes it so good, The Aces have finally pushed the boundaries with layered harmonies and a genuinely unique sound, showing the potential for future releases to triumph like ‘Put It on the Line’ again.
Hopefully releasing this LP will bring the band the confidence they need to avoid the predictability trap that they have slipped into this time. For an album that balances along genre lines it is surprisingly strict and repressive in its stylistic expression. The group are at their best when they push out of the formulaic genre defined song structure. It could have been far better if it had some genuine courage behind the more banal tracks. So many of the tracks on this album could have been great rather than simply good, if only the girls had given each song more voice.
Words: Sophie Shrive