Photo: Elise Wooten
Words: Georgina Daniels
Bristol-based indie trio ¡Ay Carmela! are celebrating the release of their latest body of work, Tokens, after sharing three singles over the course of 2023. It’s rife with relatable stories that any listener who’s experienced insecure relationships, housing issues and loss can empathise with fully. The band’s vulnerability is on full display here, from the singer’s soft and wavering vocals, but a general fullness comes together in a tight consistent rhythm that guides the music from track to track.
The fuzzy guitar of Host welcomes you into the musical space and accompanies a lilting vocal performance from Carmela, told from the perspective of a relative who has passed on. It’s a raw track that explores the feeling of being passed the torch of family trauma and being left to figure it out for oneself. I get the feeling that this was a therapeutic song to bring into the world for the vocalist, as her unpolished vocals add to the atmosphere of inner pain and trouble.
The pacing and general energy of this album doesn’t feel rushed in any way, yet there were multiple moments where it felt like instrumental parts were tacked on to the end of the song, when it would have served better as an interlude of sorts. At times it was clear that each individual musician had figured out their parts to add to the song, but the final result felt mismatched, most notable in Giants. The noodly guitar part just didn’t feel like it flowed with the vocals that well, but it gelled with the drums and bass cohesively.
Stand out tracks were Night Driving, whose lyrics felt evocative and broody, Floods and the album's closing track Scraps, an upbeat happy-go-lucky tune, lifted up even more with the addition of a trumpet to push it forward.
An easy listen that encouraged one to really pay attention to the lyrics sprinkled above the mix. I’m excited to see where ¡Ay Carmela! will venture next. They are playing shows in the next few months to showcase tracks from this release, so hop on down to check out more of them.