For the better part of a decade, The Aces discovered and polished their sound. A tightknit clique from a small Utah town, the quartet spent their formative teenage years playing music together. Cristal Ramirez is on lead vocals and guitar while her sister, Alisa, is behind the kit; Katie Henderson is on lead guitar and McKenna Petty rounds everything out on bass.

Personal growth went hand in hand with their musical progress and allowed for them to learn before many of their peers how to utilize their unique strengths for a cohesive sound. Following the release of their I Don’t Like Being Honest EP, the band released a series of acclaimed singles and has essentially been touring non-stop. At 21 years old, the band members are at a point where life and love and loss kicked in the front door, but there is an unabashed optimism for the years to come. Solid pop production enhances their traditional rock band set up, universal twenty-something angst, beguiling. Emotions aren’t coddled, but there is warmth that permeates throughout the record.

The opening track, ‘Volcanic Love’, deftly sets precedent for the rest of the album. A contained but amiable guitar riff dances over atmospherics. The bass and drums work together keeping the energy driving forward without any unnecessary pushing; the fills are not there to show off but have a purpose of supporting the track as a whole. The dramatics flourish once Cristal begins singing. There is a raspy quality that she knows exactly when and where to use.

With ‘Volcanic Love’, the influence is ’80s pop and new wave. As the album progresses, the modernization and personal take on various pop sounds channelled through live instrumentation remind the listener The Aces aren’t manufactured. Their DIY roots remain just that- something embedded in the spirit of their music, not needing to boast. The album version of ‘Stuck’ and ‘Fake Nice’ focus on punctuated beats and weaving bass lines. Staccato guitar riffs reconcile the underlying heaviness that is augmented by Cristal’s direct vocal style.

This modern play on pop utilizing live instruments is best represented in the track ‘Lovin’ is Bible’. The warped vocal intro, accented bass line, dreamy guitar and atmospherics are taken to another level due to the live drums. If you were to replace the drums with an electronic beat or drum machine and emphasize the non-guitar atmospherics, it would work as a standard electro-pop song. The Aces aren’t standard and for good reason. Alisa’s drumming gives an energy that electronics can’t. Energy doesn’t mean speed, complexity of rhythm, or volume. ‘Lovin’ is Bible’ explores the deeper meaning of relationships - that differences tend to be small and everyone deserves healthy relationships. This is something human. The pulsing of the kick or rapid fire snare are no longer tools separate from the self, but the pulse of your heart. The same goes for the minimalist style drumming on album closer, ‘Waiting for You’.

Diverging from the rest of the album, penultimate track, ‘Hurricane’ is a piano ballad that features lamenting vocals reaching out from a failing relationship as the rose-coloured glasses shatter on the sidewalk below. Even with just piano, vocals, and strings, there is a movement keeping the stream ever flowing. The lush harmonies provide solace to Cristal’s vocal runs.

Love, friendship, battle wounds from growing older, The Aces are transparent with their art. Each song has unique drama. The band is able to write songs that get stuck in your head, allowing contemplation long after the music’s stopped. Even on songs that delve into the macabre, that optimism mentioned before appears in various elements of the music. The album leaves you yearning, but that is a double-edged sword. That second edge comes in the form of dynamics. The songs are carefully crafted and their meanings are not hidden. While the layering of instrumentation is consistent across the board, dynamics in the form of volume - that tidal push and pull - was not as heavily emphasized. The most prominent cases are in ‘Lovin’ is Bible’ and ‘Hurricane’. The album as a whole has a set tempo that is purposeful for the mood and intents of the songs. With that, more emphasis on quiet moments would put energy into those wells of negative space. This would amplify the earnest, soaring phrases.

The talent is palpable with The Aces. When My Heart Felt Volcanic captures those awkwardly buzzing molecules in the heads of young adults who have the energy of a teen, but the knowledge to recognize the legitimacy of the anxieties in our world. This is why this album should get you excited. It is polished in the sense everything has a place. Sleek track productions can’t hide the energy rattling in the bones of the band. They were able to bottle and utilize the catchiness found in electro-pop and showcase the best of those elements when applied to a rock band eager to branch out. There have been countless think pieces eager to regurgitate the idea of “guitar” music on the decline. They just aren’t looking in the right place. You can’t expect progress to coddle you or your nostalgia-drenched idea of an art form. Rock is pop now. The Aces have known this for years; they got ahead of the curve by not focusing on the name of their sound but by honing what that sound is.