“I’m stuck, babe, stuck with nowhere to go…”– Stuck, The Aces
Yeah, ok I’m SUPER late with posting about this new music crush. Why? Do I even have to say it? We’re all thinking it. Ugh, well, 2020 sucked. I’m done sugar coating it or pretending it wasn’t terrible year. It was bad. BUT – if it wasn’t for 2020, I probably wouldn’t have fully fallen in love with this band or grown in the way I needed to.
The Aces, made up of sisters Cristal and Alisa Ramirez (vocals/guitar and drums, respectively), McKenna Petty (bass), and Katie Henderson (lead guitar), are the coolest frickin band I’ve heard in a while. Their honest approach to songwriting and music makes me want to be part of a band so badly. You can feel the power in everything they do: the vocals are raw and full of emotion, harmonies are sweet and complementary, guitar riffs are badass, bass and drums are impactful and driving. It’s everything I’m looking for in damn good pop music.
Not only that, but their vibe, their sisterhood, their story, the community they’ve created, and the much needed representation — it just makes my heart glow. Their music helped me get out of the chapter I was stuck in. Really, I wouldn’t be as hopeful about my life as I am now without their music.
I first came across two of their songs, “Stuck” and “Last One”, while looking for new music on Spotify around April 2020. They hit me like a ton of bricks in the best way possible.
When think of 2020, I think of the many times I said I was stuck in all senses of the word. Stuck inside, stuck with my job, stuck creatively, stuck in a negative space when it comes to love — all senses of it. “Stuck” helped me put it all in song, in English AND Spanish. The way Cristal sings the last chorus is so raw and real. I remember singing and grooving at my kitchen table as I frustratedly dealt with learning Marketo the hard way for my job. It was true release until the doomed sound of an incoming Skype or Microsoft Teams call came in.
On a similar note, I heard “Last One” and thought to myself this is exactly where I want to be. In feeling stuck, I longed to feel liberated from the mistakes I’d made the past two years of my life. This song helped me manifest that liberation. The more I sang that I don’t need another song about my job or the past boys I’d dated, the more it became that “Last One” was the last song about those things for me. I became a regular at screaming the words and stomping to Alisa and McKenna’s punchy beat until I felt indifferent about those situations later in the year.
After really getting into these two songs, I was intrigued. I saw that they were coming out with new music and later in the summer, a new album. “Daydream” was the first of the new material and it was the sweetest bop I didn’t know I needed. Let me tell ya, after not being able to see any of my best friends for months, it hit DIFFERENT. As I would go see my best friends for socially distant hangouts (when it was safe to do so), I would scream the lyrics to this song as I drove through the newly cleared freeways.
“Daydream about me and I know you hate the nights without me, baby I hate ’em too, but you know, but you know, but you know I’m coming back to you…”– Daydream, The Aces
Even now, this song still makes me want to cry. This will be my anthem when my best friends and I can travel together again. Also I can’t help but dream about a future romantic relationship with this one, it’s too cute.
Also the post-chorus riff is the coolest riff I’ve heard in a while. It makes me want to get serious about practicing my electric guitar again. Katie Henderson, you have thrown down a challenge.
The Aces’s new album, Under My Influence, slightly differs from their first EP and album but in an exciting way. Their first EP and album, When My Heart Felt Volcanic, had a very indie pop/rock sound. It was really appealing to me because that’s always been my favorite genre. Give me some catchy hooks, some solid drums, a guitar solo — I’m sold. There was a 2 year gap between the first and second album, so it’s natural that there’s a new set of influences and a growth in artistry. Under My Influence took the pop direction and leaned into more alternative/hip-hop influences and it is the coolest thing.
The best way I can describe the difference is how my summer played out before and after Under My Influence was released. Before UMI came out, there was a naivete to the way I felt about things: I felt stuck, was doing my best to be hopeful, and just trying to keep things light as long as I could.
When UMI came out, the overall themes of the album felt a little darker than When My Heart Felt Volcanic, signifying a turning point. And that was a major point of relation for me. I hit a point last summer where I felt so incredibly burned and burned out by my last job. I got really angry and frustrated and listened to “Cruel,” “Not Enough,” and “I Can Break Your Heart Too” on repeat.
“Oh, I’ve lost myself in a vicious hell. Of thinking you’ll change when I know that you never do. Why’d I have to go back to you? Why’d I have to fall for someone cruel?”– Cruel, The Aces
I specifically remember the turning point for me. It was a Saturday evening in late August. I was driving on Sunset Blvd. listening to “Cruel” from UMI and bawling my eyes out because I was realizing that I felt trapped in a vicious cycle. I kept trying to justify why I needed to stay at my job even though I was totally miserable and unmotivated. Cristal’s heartbroken vocals hit something deep in me. I screamed the words out in ugly voices as I realized how much damage had been done. I needed to get out.
It’s almost like I learned that my job and the past romantic experience from the year before were similar. I didn’t think about myself and my needs in those situations. I ended up feeling disconnected from myself as a result of ignoring what I needed/wanted. Like some sort of Stockholm Syndrome, I was comfortable in that disconnect. But, it was the same music that made me realize all this that pushed me to a healthier mindset for the new year.
“But you can’t have your cake and eat it too. My life isn’t always about you, I can break your heart too…”– I Can Break Your Heart Too, The Aces
The power of “I Can Break Your Heart Too” made me realize that I had power in saying I was OVER IT. Work and relationships are just one part of life, not our entire souls. We learn from every experience and that’s what makes it worth it in the end. But, if something is not growing you in the right direction anymore, it is perfectly ok to leave. Honestly, it’s possible that listening to this song on repeat could have encouraged me to leave my job…ok it absolutely helped me leave.
Under My Influence and When My Heart Felt Volcanic proved to be two of my top listened to albums last year and honestly, they were like my coming of age soundtrack to last year. I went from realizing I love volcanically and feeling like everything I did was “not enough” to realizing that my dreams and effort are worth something and my future partner needs to be “strong enough to stay on my mind.”
Now that I’m in a better headspace, I’ve been listening to Thought of You, Bad Love, New Emotion, Stay, and Zillionaire on repeat. These songs are great for manifesting by the way. How do I know that? I credit the fact that Thought of You was stuck in my head for an entire day for the reason I had a dream about a boy I’ve been crushing on. I don’t know, I think it works. Also, did I mention yet that they have a song called “Kelly”? BECAUSE THEY DO AND IT MAKES ME FEEL POWERFUL AGAINST ALL THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE WRONGED ME. But for real, it’s a bop.
Anyway, some final thoughts about The Aces. These phenomenal women are SO talented, honest, open, and just so frickin cool. The stories they tell in their music are so important and I am here to HYPE THEM UP as much as I can. I’m here to hype them up not just because they’ve helped me, but literally that just by existing and being a damn good band that makes innovative pop music they deserve it. Coincidentally (but not because I’d been putting off this post), they are releasing a couple B-sides on UMI on Feb 5th. A birthday gift for me?? Y’all are the best. Ok, now you guys need to listen to why I’ve deemed them to be a New Music Crush. I DARE YOU not to fall in love with them too.