ALY & AJ
A TOUCH OF THE BEAT GETS YOU UP ON YOUR FEET GETS YOU OUT AND THEN INTO THE SUN
You really had to be there. Just ask anyone who was lucky enough to experience youth in the latter half ‘noughties’. The Abercrombie and Fitch clad stiffness of the decade had began to subside, giving rise to a new breed of teens and twenty-somethings. Fuelled by reality tv and dressed to impress, their raison d’etre was to shed their inhibitions and dance the night away. It may sound silly, but it felt like a revolution at the time. A never ending sequence of parties and after-parties in which one could truly unleash their inner wild-child.
Of course, every youth explosion needs its soundtrack, and ours was provided by the likes of Icona Pop, The Veronicas, and the American pop duo, Alyson and Amanda Michalka. Better know as Aly & Aj. Their megahit 'Potential Breakup Song’ lit up dance floors and afterpartys like no other with its care-free pop zeal, not to mention the relationship advice we all needed.
Skip forward about fourteen years, and a different breed of youth has taken over both the clubs and the airwaves. It’s a hard pill to swallow for my generation (millennials just loved to be the centre of attention), but we all have to grow up sometime. And while it’s obvious that we’ve mellowed a little, we are still more than capable of lighting up a room if the beat hits just right. That's the vibe I get from the new Ally & AJ album, ‘A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun’ . Older and wiser, but still a little crazy. The proof is in the pudding, or in this case the title.
According to the sisters, their new records insanely long title is a very true representation of who they are as people. Bursting with energy and eager to engage. They aren’t willing to compromise on who they are, and that attitude has gradually seen them edge closer to reclaiming the spotlight in the last few years. Two acclaimed Eps (‘Ten Years’, ‘Sanctuary’) tested the waters for a full fledged Ally & Aj comeback. They Pair began to work with producer Yves Rothman in 2019, and it wasn't long before an album started coming together. The mission was to make a record that was influenced by 60’s and 70’s rock, but that also had a timeless quality.
Then came COVID-19, and while the plans of many an artist were scuppered by the onset of this terrible pandemic, the sisters persevered. Their headstrong determination saw them double- down on the writing process and press on with the “album they were born to make”.
As restrictions eased, Aly & Aj assembled a full band and began the recording process in Sunset Sound Studios in California. The group of musicians, who were fully masked and regularly tested, were conducted by the sisters from behind sheets of plastic. There was no doubt that the duo knew exactly the record they wanted to make, and the brunt of the songs were recorded inside of a week. With the hard work done, all that was left was to release the album into the wild. Then, quite unexpectedly, something happened that would cause Aly & Aj to change course.
‘Potential Break-up Song’ was adopted by the Tik-Tok using masses, and returned to the airwaves with a vengeance. Eager to capitalise on this fortuitous turn of events, the sisters began to drop single after single through their own record label. From the initial release of ‘Slow Dancing’ it was clear that this new Aly & Aj album would be a different kind of animal. The songs sultry tones and breezy, cathartic soul showed both a more mature side to the duo, but also a huge leap in musical craft. This upward trend continued on the new wave inspired ‘Listen!!!’’, causing quite a buzz for the upcoming Lp from both established fans and newcomers alike.
Released on May 7th, ‘A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun’ redefines Aly & Aj as mature, accomplished songwriters with a clear vision and a very bright future. The “open skies” and thoughts of “leaving the past behind” in ‘Pretty Places’ can be seen as emblematic of the entire album. This record is much more then a trip down memory lane. Clearly influenced by both the classic groove of Fleetwood Mac and the contemporary attitude of Haim, Aly & Aj apply this to their own staple sound masterfully. Songs like ‘Lost Cause’ and ‘Lucky To Get Him’ fit them like a glove, and confirm the theory that this is the album they were born to make.
That’s not to say that the Aly & Aj of old have been scrubbed from existence. This record is littered with pleasing call-backs to their previous incarnation, like the hyper-infectious chorus of ‘Break Yourself’ which could have been lifted directly from ‘Insomniatic’ in 2007.
Alyson and Amanda Michalka are still the same people they were back then, with the rough edges smoothed over. They have grown insurmountably since those early days, and the wisdom they have acquired along the way drips, like honey, from tracks like ‘Stomach’ and the beautiful album closer ‘Hold Out’.‘A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun’ is Aly & Aj proving that they are yet to be defined. Their story is proof positive that even as time passes and we all get a little older, true talent and perseverance will always see you claim a seat at the table.
A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun is available now. For more info on Aly & Aj head to their Instagram.