Elegant transglobal grooves
Born from the psychedelic San Francisco music scene of the 1960s, Ace of Cups is a pioneering rock group of all-female talent. Mixing stories of female empowerment with the angst of everyday life, Ace of Cups place a new meaning on rock and roll her-story with their newest LP, Sing Your Dreams. Featuring collaborations with Jackson Browne, Bakithi Kumalo (bassist on Paul Simon’s Graceland), Steve Kimock, David Freiberg (Jefferson Starship) and Jack Casady (Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna), this album packs a lot of music with one swift punch.
“Dressed in Black” marks the first track as a blues-rock interlude with sass. Lead guitarist, Mary Ellen Simpson, lays down the blues melodies of a previous era to push the song into this century. Similar in style is “Boy, What’ll You Do Then,” which combines the blues harmonica, courtesy of Denise Kaufman, with an upbeat rhythm circa the 1970s.
“Jai Ma,” on the other hand, explores the Divine Feminine and revokes patriarchal stories, with an uppity rhythm and a euphoric demeanor transcended by drums and vocals. In a statement about the album, Kaufman states, “‘Jai Ma’ may be translated from Sanskrit as ‘Victory to the Divine Mother—the energy and power of all creation. May She triumph over all destructive forces within each of us and everywhere in this world.” This song’s Afropop guitar and worldly rhythm add a new element to the band’s repertoire.
To further progress The Cups’ feminist agenda, “Put a Woman in Charge” is a harsher rock track of anger worthy of its own film montage with powerful women. Simpson’s electrifying solo caps off the second chorus with empowerment and shows both sides of The Cups’ musical skillset. “Sister Ruth” slows down the album with an acoustic backdrop and descriptions of a simpler time in modern America which stretches around the world. Holding hands and deep conversations might follow if listening to this song, as this song has the attitude of a Haight Ashbury wanderer in the late ‘60s (just like the band members). “Basic Human Needs” makes for a similar song, with a worldwide view and a bit more soul, only towards the end.
“I’m on Your Side” contains a pinch of jazz clarinet, which adds diversity to this LP, but it lacks substance. This song is reminiscent of a Randy Newman song, without the character to make it unique. Though what compensates is the next track, “Gemini.” This song takes people back a few decades to a time of muffled vocals and faded distortion that the roamers and dreamers of 1970s San Francisco might listen to. As one of the most well-versed songs of this album, this song captures the band most efficiently while utilizing their talent.
Back to rock and roll is the following track, “Little White Lies.” Catchy, melodic and groovy, this song is worth a listen. It contains a relatability which other songs don’t encompass, making for a charming track, plus some sweet guitar riffs.
As the most storyteller-like track of this album, “Waller Street Blues” has the sass and commentary this band is known for. This song seems like a conversation, enthralling listeners with each sentence, that then backhands them with a harmonica or muted guitar riff. With spider-like guitar strums, “Lucky Stars” seems a bit country for this group but captures their talent well. Mary Gannon’s stellar bass is worthy of singling out, as it carries the track to the heavens while keeping their feminine mystique.
“Slowest River / Made for Love” closes this album with a duet featuring Jackson Browne worthy of its own film. Accompanied by notes of a heavenly piano and soulful guitar, this track transforms halfway through to a lustful song of, people guessed it, love. The emotion in this song seems to combat destruction or internal struggle with romance in a euphoric fashion.
Ace of Cups revived a bohemian past with their album, Sing Your Dreams. This spectacular group of feminine goddesses has encapsulated an intense array of genres and moods into 50 minutes of music. Though it seems a bit contrived, this album honors femininity, love and sensuality while stripping away patriarchal themes in the modern era.