I have been an Ultra Q fan for years, so it is easy to imagine my excitement when they released their debut album, “My Guardian Angel,” on June 9. Their knack for complex riffs and intriguing basslines as well as unique vocals has kept me hooked from the start. Ultra Q consists of lead singer Jakob Armstrong, guitarist Enzo Malaspina, drummer Chris Malaspina, and bassist Kevin Judd. The Oakland, CA natives released several EPs under Ultra Q over the past few years and have more work available on Spotify under their former name, Mt. Eddy.
The album kicks off with their last single released ahead of the album: “Saturday.” This melodic, entrancing song feels like it would fit perfectly over the tunnel scene from “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” It is a requirement to blast this one while driving at sunset with the windows down. To top off the beauty that is “Saturday,” the first track seamlessly blends into the second track and second released single, “VR Sex.”
If I had to pick my favorite Ultra Q song, this one might be the winner. “VR Sex” has a little bit of everything, and I will be shocked if it is not my #1 song on Spotify at the end of the year. Armstrong shows off his range more in this song than I had ever previously heard, making this track all the more shocking on the first listen. He tends to sing on the lower side, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how much more of his range was shown off in this album. The riffs and drums do a great job of building up the vocals while also standing on their own to create this diverse, extremely catchy, masterpiece of a song that I cannot accurately put into words. Give it a listen to see what I mean.
“Rocket” is lighter compared to the rest of the album, but still fits the vibe perfectly. Armstrong left me speechless with this track, experimenting with the higher part of his vocal range. This was the third single ahead of “MGA” and the one that really got me excited for the album. Sure, I had heard two other songs I loved, but a third solidified my belief that the album would be something special.
“Wrip” goes back and forth with “VR Sex” for my favorite song on “My Guardian Angel.” To put it simply, this song is a religious experience. The opening riff dropping into the song is enough to make anyone stop and turn up the volume. It builds back up into the chorus and forces the listener’s attention. The bass, the guitar, the drums, the vocals, everything blends together to create a perfect storm of what Ultra Q does best. If I could only recommend one song from the album, it would be this one.
I have a unique bond with “So Very Emo” – allow me to provide some context. I saw Ultra Q for the first time in June 2022, where they announced that they would be performing “a new one” for the first time. Lo and behold, I heard “So Very Emo” just over a year before its official release. I know I have talked about guitar enough already, but Enzo Malaspina has outdone himself with this one. When I say he goes HAM on this song, it is not an exaggeration. He saw his chance to shine and he absolutely took it.
“Teether” is the best of both worlds, in a way, in that there are two versions of this song. The first one, on the “In a Cave in a Video Game” EP, is echoey and distant – as if it’s being played in the next room over. The common theme with Armstrong is that it is difficult to understand what he’s saying through his deep, whiny tone, and the original version of “Teether” is no exception. The vocals in the “MGA” version are clearer and crisper, but the guitar might have been slightly overproduced, as the synthetic tone clashes with the newfound clarity of the vocals. Neither version is better than the other, by any means; they were just produced differently. In all honesty, I have no idea which version I prefer because they both have their individual strengths and weaknesses.
If there was one track I didn’t see coming, it was “Dark Green,” which closes out the album. It is delicate, emotional, and stays true to Ultra Q’s affinity for intricacy. Chris Malaspina’s drums pull back for this song, opting to use the drum sticks to create a beat that allows for more detail to shine through. Kevin Judd’s bass ties the song together, adding a really nice foundation to an otherwise higher song both in vocals and instrumentals. “Dark Green” is definitely one of my favorites.
There are 12 songs total on “My Guardian Angel,” and all of them are amazing and unique in their own way. Every song is, at the very least, really good, but I chose to highlight the ones I cannot get enough of. My only other note is that “I Watched Them Go” is almost too experimental – while showing range is extremely evident throughout the record, the song stands out as a synth pop bop alongside its alternative rock counterparts. However, that isn’t to say it’s not good. Ultra Q loves detail and exploration, and they have continued to prove that with every project they release.
Overall rating: 9/10
On top of music, the band’s creativity spans to music videos as well as graphic design. E. Malaspina is credited for most of the band’s merchandise designs as well as the cover of “My Guardian Angel,” alongside Armstrong.
As if Ultra Q couldn’t get any better, they are fantastic live performers and they’re going on tour in October. While they are opening for another artist on most of the dates, they still know how to demand the attention of everyone in the venue. Check out UQ tour dates here, and happy listening.