Lily Vakili Band “Facial Recognition Technology”

Rock music’s brightest new artists have never been quite as hard to categorize by subgenre as they are right now, and that’s certainly true when analyzing the new single from Lily Vakili Band, “Facial Recognition Technology.” A product of alternative rock’s cutting lyrical prism but untethered to most any of the style’s modern efficiencies, this latest release from singer/songwriter Lily Vakili is undisputedly rock n’ roll, but beyond that, it lives in the space between varnished pop and unyielding punk angst. It’s made a fan out of me for sure, and my gut tells me it just might you as well.

There’s not a lot of fight in the attack that we find in the beginning of “Facial Recognition Technology,” but this doesn’t stop the track from evolving into a stadium-rocker over the course of only a few minutes’ time. The rhythm, as broken and non-stoic as it is, is the catalyst for pretty much every exciting burst of relief in the otherwise tense environment created by the guitar. With the assistance of Vakili’s vocal, it grows the initial mood into a monolith, and drags anything within earshot of its beats asunder into a world once ruled by the likes of Patti Smith.

The singing is at the center of the mix here, but it doesn’t demand a division in our attention between its lyrics and the swaggering force of the backing band. Lily Vakili has become a lot more balanced in her approach to harmonies than she was in 2018’s Oh Alright, and though this is as far away from a bubblegum pop song as it gets, there’s a fluidity to the music in “Facial Recognition Technology” that she can utilize heavily in future releases. Good artists grow up fast, but this girl is, in my view, straight-up breaking the mold for her scene.

It would be really interesting to hear an acoustic version of “Facial Recognition Technology” sometime, mostly so that the general public could appreciate the blueprint of the beats here as much as they do the distorted decadence of the guitar parts. This band doesn’t need a lot of sonic buffering to sound like a devastatingly talented group of players, and while this isn’t the most barebones track in their collection of releases, it’s definitely devoid of any useless filler. Vakili has no need for such trite nonsense in her work, and that’s made more than clear to us in this song.

There aren’t many rock singers that are bringing the kind of presence that Lily Vakili is to this latest release bearing her band’s moniker. Her attitude, execution and overall demeanor are as important to the music as any of the riffs, grooves and harmonies are, and in this way, she reminds me a lot of the rock forerunners who paved the road for her journey decades ago. I’ll be looking out for more of her music as the year goes on, and based on the reception this single is getting, I’ll be joined by numerous listeners around the country in doing so.

Gwen Waggoner