Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

The Aces – Daydream

Our Haim is true…


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Vikram Joseph: Walking kept me sane during the dog days of the spring lockdown. There was something liberating — at least to start with — about moving without purpose or destination. The British climate, never shy of a cruel joke, gave us the sunniest spring on record; perhaps because of the lack of air pollution, the whole city felt super-saturated, as vibrant with colour as it was eerie in its forced tranquility. For me — along with Zoom quizzes, Normal People and those long, aimless excursions — “Daydream” will forever remind me of the blinding, stunted season into which it was born. It’s such an uncomplicated pleasure in a time when those have been rare — breezy pop-rock with restless, exuberant guitar lines, synth-bass that’s pure e.mo.tion, and pristine production (that one-two hit leading into the chorus!). It’s also, somehow, the most Haim-sounding song in a year when Haim released a full album.
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Crystal Leww: Good news for those of who liked Haim’s debut album but did not like the fact that their latest “just experimenting” album starts with an imitation of jazz saxophone: turns out that The Aces are pretty good at this thing, too.
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Katherine St Asaph: The arrangement, rhythms and melodies of a Days Are Gone Haim song, the utterly earnest horny yearning of a Carly Rae Jepsen song, and some midcareer Charli XCX vocal tricks (the glottal stops and melody of “sleep don’t mat-ter, for one). It’s all very Ariel Rechtshaid, very 2012-2013, like the Aces wanted to roll back the last few years of music to that fall 2012 Pitchfork feature on “small pop.”
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John Seroff: It has been two years since we last caught up with The Aces and not much has changed: lead singer Cristal Ramirez’s vocals still pack a wallop, the band still rocks, there’s still the same thick ribbon of cynicism criss-crossing their ostensibly cheery and undeniably catchy pop. If their sound hasn’t evolved, it has certainly grown more assured, more robust, more itself. Why mess with what works?
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Harlan Talib Ockey: This is so close to the point where it could really soar; the bubbling bass, the cavernous ’80s-esque drums, and the shimmering guitar all easily coalesce into a mirage of the summer we should have gotten. Unfortunately, it’s held back by a couple of baffling production choices that sacrifice its bright atmosphere for lazy pop cliché. The Auto-Tune chokes Ramirez’s vocals, largely draining her of the nuanced emotional power she flexes with no trouble on other recent singles like “Kelly.” The low-pass filter in the pre-choruses, too, feels more like an empty, perfunctory gesture towards “what everyone on the charts is doing” than an organic and earned build-up to the ecstatic chorus. Regardless, anything that could be fixed with a simple remix isn’t quite enough to kill that summer high.
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Michael Hong:Volcanic Love” felt essential. Maybe it wasn’t, but it sure felt that way. It was the way the chorus broke open, the way those drum hits made the track feel heavy, and the way Cristal Ramirez knew just when to lay on the grit. The hooks are still there on Under My Influence and you could argue that they’re just as well-written but they lack the weight and excitement of anything off of When My Heart Felt Volcanic. The synths of “Daydream” feel pleasant the same way a sunny afternoon does, but it doesn’t feel essential the way “Volcanic Love” did two years ago.
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Juana Giaimo: “Daydream” is the kind of song I would never skip. I could even dance a little bit, learn a line or two and expect the drum fills before the chorus, but everything is so polished that, when it finishes, it doesn’t leave me wanting for more.
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Thomas Inskeep: If you like Carly Rae Jepsen, you’re apt to go for this foursome’s slice of bright-but-not-shiny upbeat pop. This would sound aces blasting out of car speakers on a windows-down midsummer’s day.
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Kayla Beardslee: “Daydream” is breezy, urgent pop that makes me nostalgic for a thrilling summer I never had. I wish the guitar riff in the post-chorus was slightly different — no idea how I’d change it, but something about its simplicity saps a little bit of the chorus’s momentum. But that’s a small quibble, and the track is so short and fast-paced that individual moments pass in a blur anyway: like the memories of a lover that you cling to while they’re gone, “Daydream” is best experienced on repeat.
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Will Adams: Sunburst pop-rock: it’s hard to go wrong. Even though the runtime is truncated to appease the streaming gods, Cristal Ramirez packs in a hooky, post-hookup “just kidding… unless?” that resonates. So often it feels like you’re on the precipice with a flame; there’s a race to get someone to confess first. Some of us are just brave enough to admit it.
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Edward Okulicz: This song sure isn’t emotionally deep, but it is emotionally broad. It’s got longing, but it’s also in the moment. It’s got a nice squelch to it, which is admittedly generic, but it’s also light and dreamy and powerful, and that’s harder to get right. It was too happy for March when it came out, but today the sun’s out, and my appetite for a sub-three minute whirlwind of hormones and half resolved romantic narratives is inexhaustible.
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Alex Clifton: Simultaneously dreamy and catchy as hell, a sugar rush without any sort of letdown. I can feel the wind whipping through my hair on a summer night as this plays on the radio, windows down, a joyous sense of freedom on a spur-of-the moment roadtrip, scenes from a summer that didn’t exist this year. I look forward to jamming out to this next year and hope to make those false memories a reality.
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Nortey Dowuona: Cycling guitar follows lilting bass and thudding drums as the Aces first make their entrance, leaping upon a filtered out synth wave, riding it on to the breakdown rocks and flying, a spinning guitar lick following. The Aces settle upon the beach, then leap back on the waves, the bass synths curling around them as they leap into the sky, the spinning guitar lick carrying them over the beach and off into the sunset.
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Oliver Maier: A sugar rush that reminds me most of early Haim, whose main weaknesses were a) sounding a little anonymous and b) not knowing where to take their songs after the second chorus. The Aces share the first issue, and eschew the second entirely by ending the track altogether. Which, sure, I guess, but if my pop-rock is going to colour inside of the lines I’d at least prefer it complete the picture.
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Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Draws on every tool in the Shura-MUNA-Dua-Haim axis of contemporary sophisticated pop rock (the SMDH-acspr, if you want to sound scientific) in a way that would feel like overkill if not for how charming the combined effort is. Extra points for the guitar solo, which rips in a way that does not feel like a pale imitation of anything.
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Alfred Soto: Loath as I am to compare acts of the same gender, I can’t deny how the vocals tumbling pell-mell after their tactical deployment and the there/not there-ness of the percussion evoke prime Haim. That said, I love Haim, and The Aces tie concept and execution with a bigger bow than their predecessors could at this stage in their development.
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Rachel Saywitz: I fell in love with The Aces a few years back, when they released their stellar pop-rock debut, When My Heart Felt Volcanic. The band’s newest LP, Under My Influence, moves them in a poppier direction, but retains the same breeziness and wistful energy of their previous music. “Daydream,” the album’s lead single, is a wonderful encapsulation of what makes The Aces such a blast to listen to. The song starts with a gripping melodic hook and flies through our ears with a joyful liveliness. To be honest, “Daydream” doesn’t exactly bring anything new and invigorating to the table — it’s quite straightforward in its song structure and doesn’t delve too deeply into one guitar riff or drum beat. But I’m a sucker for sunshine-pop, and The Aces never disappoint in that regard. 
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2 Responses to “The Aces – Daydream”

  1. Michael, it’s been SO long since I’ve heard “Volcanic Love”; it was probably one of my favorite songs by The Aces (along with “Bad Love” and “Stuck”) before I just like ?? stopped listening to them for no reason ?? Anyways, thanks for the reminder (and the great Mandopop recs — not “Ans*l Elg*rt” jdszxszx)!

  2. for those who like this Haim-but-not-Haim mode of The Aces I highly recommend their debut EP “I Don’t Like Being Honest”, esp. “Physical”

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