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album review: wishful thinking (at its best)

Last week, Chula Vista four-piece, Ignant Benches, dropped their debut album Wishful Thinking (At Its Best). Made up of Anson Kelley (vocals/guitar), Andy Tistoj (guitar), Ruben Gutierrez (bass), and Mauro Rocha (drums), the band has finally released its first full body of work to follow their demos and their cover of “cotton eye joe” that currently sits at 140,000+ streams. 

Like the title, Wishful Thinking (At Its Best) has a wonderfully quirky sound, reminiscent of your favorite alternative rock groups. The album itself is a love letter to the band’s two core influences, The Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes, in a way you never thought possible, combining the sounds of songs like Fluorescent Adolescent and Someday into one album. I’d even go the extra mile and say Kelley’s vocals resemble that of Brobecks-era Dallon Weekes. Whatever your nostalgia provokes, Wishful Thinking (At Its Best) is a beautiful blend of sounds we all know and love with its own, unique Ignant Benches flair.

Wishful Thinking (At Its Best) starts with the track that arguably has the best name: “Angry Lizard Noise.” As peculiar as the title suggests, the track’s feel can be summed up in those three words. A fierce opening track, “Angry Lizard Noise” sets the tone for the album beautifully, but also sets you up to be surprised along the way. “Heaven” carries that same energy with a groove that makes it impossible not to dance.

“Queen of Hearts” is where the album begins to veer from the path it initially seems to lay out (if you’re listening in order, of course). A demo of the song was released in 2018 but has since been polished for its official release on the album. While “Queen of Hearts” was just as enjoyable when it was only a demo, having attained over 30,000 streams on Spotify the track is even better reworked. Full of tempo changes that keep you on your toes and powerful, belted vocals, the track is unpredictable from start to finish. It starts slow at first, making you think it’s just another laidback tune, before abruptly switching gears at the end with skillfully fast guitar solos. The track is guitar-heavy, alternating between echoed solos or rhythmic strums that take you on a ride that you’re always ready to go on again.

Following is another single “I Don’t Make Me” featuring jangly guitar riffs and clashing cymbals. This track most significantly demonstrates the band’s influence by The Strokes, with Anson Kelley’s vocals almost mistakable for Julian Casablancas’ wailing voice. “Common Sense” brings the energy down just a bit before the beautiful ballad “Obstacles” which is reminiscent of love songs like “Love is a Laserquest” and “Only Ones Who Know” by Arctic Monkeys. The soft emotion of “Obstacles” is enough to give you chills as you settle down on the last, almost haunting note.

The energy is immediately revived with the opening of “Yes, Please, Don’t.” This track shows off the skills of drummer Mauro Rocha with constant changes in rhythm and complicated fills. “Modern Day New York” follows before “No, Thanks, Please” which brings in layered vocals that add a whole new depth to their sound.

Next is another beautiful yet upbeat ballad, “When I Say This, I Mean It.” Featuring harmonizing strings and romantic lyrics including the name of the album, this song seems to be the emotional peak of the whole project. You can tell that every member of the band is putting all of their passion and emotion into the music, creating a gorgeous and full sound that you want to live in forever.

“You Gave It Your Best” carries on the same energy from earlier in the album and was the second single to be released from the project. The final track, “Television,” really feels like the culmination of the whole record. Something about the instrumentals makes you feel like this is the end of something beautiful, like the credits rolling by at the end of your favorite film.

Overall, Ignant Benches gave us a comprehensive look into their range with this stunning record full of songs that make you want to laugh, cry, and scream. Wishful Thinking (At Its Best) is a masterpiece from beginning to end that takes you all over the map in the craziest way possible. So crazy that it’s genius. 

Take a listen to below:

Review by Raven Yamamoto and Donna Borges

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