Friday, November 17, 2017

Review of Best Ex's "Ice Cream Antisocial"

I dropped this review onto the Sputnik Music website just a few minutes ago. Kudos to another strong (formerly) Long Island band.

Review Summary: The band formerly known as Candy Hearts drops a new EP filled with some fine, fine ditz-rock.

I've always liked these guys. It's hard to say exactly why. I think it's because there's something both genuine and kind of charming about them.

Best Ex is the band formerly known as Candy Hearts. They haven't changed their personnel, or even their style (with the possible exception that they're maybe a little more "pop" and a little less "punk" than they used to be). And they still play their Candy Hearts material when they're on tour. So why the name change? According to lead singer Mariel Loveland, "The truth is, I just don't identify with being called 'Candy Hearts' anymore." She goes on to explain that she feels like she's coming from a completely different place than she was when she first created the band. OK.

Anyway, Ice Cream Antisocial is their first EP of new music since the name change, and it pretty much picks up where Candy Hearts left off. There are six songs here, mostly mining the same territory that the band has always mined -- catchy songs about dysfunctional relationships, songs that are happy on the outside but sad on the inside, all sung from the persona of the likable but kind of zany and irresponsible girl next door. Yourdictionarycom defines "ditz" as being "Slang for a person considered flighty, eccentric, silly, etc." I like to think of this genre of music as "ditz-rock".

Loveland is another one of those vocalists you either like or you don't. Her voice isn't as strident as, say, Looming's Jessica Knight. But it's untrained, and almost (but not quite) a little flat. She describes it herself as being "high" and "small", which is one of the reasons for moving away from the "Candy Hearts" name -- she's a woman now, albeit one with a teen girl's voice, as she's looking to be perceived as such. Personally, I've always liked her voice -- it's the voice of a real person, not an image. And while she might not be writing songs about the grave issues of the day, when I listen to her, I never have any doubt that she's projecting her actual self and singing about the things that are important in her life.

"Girlfriend", the first track on the EP, is also the most fetching. It's got a hook of sharp stainless steel, as the song's protagonist extols a male friend in whom she has more than a platonic interest, "Kiss me like you don't want it to end/'Cause I don't really care about your girlfriend". This is a song written from the opposite perspective of Hayley William's "Misery Business", as this one gives voice to the would-be femme fatale, who pleads, "Baby I'm bad news/But I am good for you." 

"Lonely Life" features a happy tune that somewhat belies the song's sad, confessional lyrics, wherein Loveland admits "My cat is my best friend", and laments, "Oh, it's a lonely life/We're just doing the best we can". It's another one of those songs that makes it clear you're listening to a real human being here, with all of the flaws and imperfections implied therein.

I don't know if changing the band name of an already nationally-known band was a great business decision, but I hope it works out for these guys. I'm wishing that this EP is just the first of many successful Best Ex projects to come. They've never put out an album I haven't enjoyed, and Ice Cream Antisocial is no exception. On the chorus of the song "Someday", Loveland declares, "Someday we're gonna get it.../Someday we're gonna get it right". I'd argue that they already have.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars