Over the summer, the sister duo Aly & AJ released their first album since 2007’s “Insomniatic” called “A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun.” If Aly & AJ somehow sound familiar, it is probably from their 2007 hit “Potential Breakup Song.” The music video was played heavily on Disney Channel, and the sisters were featured on many shows on the channel during that time.
Beginning a sort of comeback with two EPs, 2017’s “Ten Years” and 2019’s “Sanctuary,” the sisters have regularly made new music.
Two stand-alone releases in 2020, “Attack of Panic” and “Joan of Arc on the Dance Floor,” definitely have more electronic elements than the guitar-based and soft rock leanings of their most recent album. This change of sound shows that the sisters are not afraid to experiment in different genres.
This most recent album invokes a laid-back atmosphere. It is perfect for those days when you just want to drive around town with the car top down, listening to songs about love and heartbreak.
“Slow Dancing” is a heartbreaking ballad about lost love and wanting to go back to simpler things, “Move the kitchen table out to the lawn/Roll up the rug, the stereo’s on/All I can imagine is bein’ in your arms.” The singers are nostalgic for a time when everything was perfect, and just want to be dancing with the one they love.
“Paradise” leans into the electronic elements of their previous work but still fits perfectly into the album’s sound. The sisters’ harmonizing is infused with a very heavy beat. The lyrics describe wanting to find their paradise, but wondering if “paradise” is enough, “Been through the fields and walked through the water/To find a place unlike our own/Cut through the trees and pushed even further/If we’ve arrived, how would we know?”
“Listen!!!” includes the guitar skills and background vocals of the legendary Nancy Wilson of Heart. Wilson’s signature guitar style infuses the track with a palpable sense of tension, complementing Aly & AJ’s singing of anger and frustration. This frustration is heard in the lyrics, “I tried to empathize/ But you’re so dismissive/Night after night/I expressed what I feared from the start/That your heart would never…” The narrator is tired of not being heard in their relationship and wants out.
“Don’t Need Nothing” has this catchy hook that is repeated throughout, “A touch of the beat/Gets you up on your feet/Gets you out and then into the sun.” I think it is very fitting that the album title comes from this song, and this phrase is the centerpiece of the album and ties everything together. “Don’t Need Nothing” is a track that gets your feet tapping.
“Personal Cathedrals” paints this narrative of boring parties and young love. The first verse includes, “Bleeding sunset on a desert view/A sea of cocktails but every drink is empty/Cold shoulders and bad perfume (Ooh,ooh)/ Ring the bell, it’s a cattle call/You self-park too?/How did we end up on the edge of the infinity pool?/I won’t jump in without you.”
The entire song has this dreaminess to it, and this part of the chorus amplifies that. ”They treat these lonely dance floors/Like personal cathedrals/Even diamonds here don’t shine.” The story continues in the second verse with the narrator fed up at this party and just wants to be alone with their significant other, “I’m at my end here but I’m hanging on (Ooh,ooh)/All I can do is nod my head or play dead/Who’s the fool celebrating who? Could this be any less cool?/You laugh and say I love you.” I think the reason why this song is a favorite of mine is because of the storytelling that is woven through.
“A Touch of the Beat…” feels like a fresh start for the duo. All of us have changed quite a bit since 2007; Aly & AJ show us it is okay to enjoy some guilty pleasures from our time as young kids while looking forward and creating music for today.