“Democracy’s become a plaything / Of cons and Russian bots / What’s that? That’s the smell of… / Late-stage capitalism beginning to rot” sings Lily Vakili in a memorable string of verses near the start of her self-titled band’s new single, “Facial Recognition Technology.” Vakili definitely isn’t pulling any punches in this track, and while the lyrics might sound like the grittiest element to behold here, they’re not the lone component of chaos in the song. “Facial Recognition Technology” is a chest-pounding tribute to humanity, rebellion against A.I. influence, but more than anything else, it’s an exhibition in what this group can throw down in the studio.

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The string play is woven into the vocal melody seamlessly in this song, but there’s still plenty of definition between the different parts in the master mix. Every level here has been meticulously adjusted to create a wall of harmonization as we get closer to the flash point of catharsis in the chorus, but I wouldn’t say anything feels overly theatrical in “Facial Recognition Technology.” Vakili doesn’t want to overwhelm us with grandiosity so much as she wants her audience to feel the scope of her emotions here, which she accomplishes excellently.

Tonality can shape most any song, regardless of the genre or who happens to be performing it, and on this front, Lily Vakili’s vocal definitely impacts how listeners will read her lyrics here. This isn’t a multi-interpretive single – it’s the opposite, really. Vakili is more than cut and dry with her words, but it’s how she conveys them to us that colorizes the narrative beneath their poetic marriage. She’s putting all of her heart and soul into her execution in “Facial Recognition Technology,” which is something I’d love to see her counterparts in mainstream rock try every now and again.

Though the lyrics aren’t conventionally structured in this track, their implied unevenness is essential to making the vocal parts as moody as they ultimately feel (especially outside of the chorus). By arranging the drums ahead of the guitar, there’s an urgency that we never fully escape, even when this song has come to an end. Vakili’s dire emotion feeds into the instrumental warmth, and when she pulls away from the microphone, we’re left eagerly anticipating her next verse, as though it were the only source of hydration in the middle of desolate wasteland. Addictive, in my frame of mind, is putting it very mildly.

I wasn’t very familiar with Lily Vakili Band outside of listening to a few tracks off of their 2018 debut LP Oh Alright before I got a pre-release copy of “Facial Recognition Technology,” but I’m now sold on their sound for sure. It’s hard to deny the likeability of this group’s personality, created solely around that of Lily Vakili herself, and though the spotlight is always trained on the band’s namesake, she doesn’t sound egocentric here at all. I’ll be staying tuned for more of her output in the future, and it would be wise of other alternative aficionados to do so as well.

Nicole Killian

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