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The Aces dive deeper on Under My Influence but struggle to make it last

"Under My Influence"

Release date: 17 July 2020
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16 July 2020, 07:54 Written by Eloise Bulmer
​​Two years on from the bright, fizzing indie pop of their debut album When My Heart Felt Volcanic, The Aces are ready to dive deeper on Under My Influence.

Armed now with a dedicated fanbase who follow tours, create challenges and choreograph TikTok dances, having become something of a safe space for young women across the world, their earnest lyrics, radiant melodies and palpable friendship inspire dedication and hope in their fans.

The promotional singles are easily the strongest on the record. "My Phone is Trying to Kill Me" is an exhausted, irritable anthem for a world in which it really can be a challenge to put your phone down for even a day. Far from patronising, this track guilelessly talks out the frustrations of an entire generation without coming off as disingenuous. Strutting break-up song "Lost Angeles" is a particular highlight, Cristal's voice almost breaking as she divulges all the reasons she's lost her starry-eyes for the city: "I've had enough / go ahead and take me home / you're the loneliest city I've ever known." There's clearly been an effort on this album to explore new sonic territory, and this is the track that proves they can craft an excellent pop-song whilst pushing their music to new heights.

The songs which appeal to universal feelings shine brightest – after all, this is a band that trades on earnest relatability. "New Emotion" is about realising you have a crush on a friend, whilst the surprisingly reggae-inflected bounce of "Kelly" is immediately memorable, full of longing for someone who isn't giving you the attention you want. Released to coincide with Pride month, it's the band's first openly queer love song: they avoided gender pronouns entirely on their debut after being told that songs about same-sex relationships won't sell. A song like "Kelly" speaks to their growth and the relationship they have fostered with their fans. In the words of The Aces themselves: "These songs are truly the stories of our lives. Under My Influence means so many things to us, but above all, it means unapologetically becoming who you are.”

A shorter tracklist would have strengthened the album – a lot of it is forgettable even after fourth and fifth listens. Album closer "Zillionaire" feels particularly unnecessary, a down-tempo, vaguely funk-inspired track with lacklustre lyrics like "all the money in the world wouldn't matter to me girl / you're the one that makes me feel like a zillionaire". It borders on gaudy, and next to their back catalogue this is definitely one that could have been left in the writing room. The Aces are reaching for the stars on this release, and the glimmers of what they could be further down the road burn bright. Unfortunately the album is brought back to Earth when their usually precise hooks and focused direction are left behind in favour of lackadaisical experimentation – the candid lyrics manage to cut through, but it's easy to imagine this album being seen as transitionary in hindsight.

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