The great Aly & AJ album drought has finally ended. Like a phoenix rising out of the ashes, the sister duo is back with a breathtaking magnum opus.
When the Disney Channel starlets dropped their studio album “Insomniatic” in 2007, fans had no idea the “potential breakup” the duo was referring to in their hit track would be their career.
After dipping their toes back in the industry with the extended plays (EP) “Ten Years” in 2017 and “Sanctuary” in 2019, the duo dropped their fourth studio album, “a touch of the beat gets you up on your feet gets you out and then into the sun,” May 7.
The tongue-twistingly titled album runs 48 minutes, featuring 12 crisp summer jams, each co-written by the sisters and solely produced by Yves Rothman. Inspired by rock of the 1960s and ‘70s, Aly and AJ sought to achieve a “timeless vibe” with the album. Only time will tell, but these tunes made a striking case.
Each track brims with purpose. Lead single “Slow Dancing” opts for a stripped-back production, aligning with the lyrical theme of wanting a simple love with one’s partner. The track’s synth production is beautifully calming and a wonderful palate cleanser.
Opening track “Pretty Places” captures the free-spirited effervescence of the album. It’s a song made for summer drives along the coast.
“Watch the sunrise, sunset, same day / When was the last time you did that anyways?” the duo open the second verse.
With “Pretty Places,” Aly & AJ sets the album’s status quo. The song tells the story of living life to its fullest, enjoying the beauty of a cross-country drive with worry in the rearview. It’s an idealistic fantasy, an escape from the harsh reality, executed with precision.
And that’s “a touch of the beat” in a nutshell — a remarkably soothing album of escapist exuberance. The vocals crash like waves on the production’s shore, creating a peaceful summer journey.
Rarely is a song as aptly titled as “Paradise.” From the opening beats, the track is transcendent. The beats coalesce with elation, exemplifying true paradise for four minutes and 44 seconds.
“Went 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?” the duo sing in the lyrically profound pre-chorus.
“Lucky to Get Him” is a euphoric love song. The enigmatic production creates an atmosphere which complements the echoing, hazy vocals.
“Don’t be foolish / One second can turn into a lifetime,” the duo repeat throughout the latter half of the song. Like a trance, the track evolves into a hallucinogenic explosion of perfection, capturing the comfort and warmth of unequivocal love.
With the rock-tinged tracks comes the effortlessly sleek “Break Yourself.” The track shimmers with its bouncy pace, emulating the vibe of a “Gossip Girl” end-of-episode track. Viewers of the teen drama should know, that’s the highest of compliments.
The noirish track features a saxophone in the back half, carrying the tune to a powerful end as the duo chant “Break yourself / Break yourself / Break yourself / Break yourself away.”
The repetition found in many tracks aligns well with the carefree road trip journey. “a touch of the beat” is an album to get lost to, to forget one’s inhibitions with.
Despite opting for a more alternative sound with the majority of the tracks, Aly & AJ lean into unabashed pop with “Symptom of Your Touch.”
“It’s a symptom of your touch / If it feels so good / Why does it hurt so much?” the duo sings in the pre-chorus.
The track stands out as an upbeat firecracker from the opening beat, evolving into an explosive final chorus. If the album is a cross-country road trip, “Symptom of Your Touch” is undoubtedly the moment when you lift your head out of the sunroof in youthful bliss.
The duo returned without missing a beat — or the touch of it. From the ‘70s teen movie-esque “Listen!!!!” to the sobering “Stomach,” the album features hit after hit.
As Sheree Whitfeild said in her tagline for season nine of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” don’t call it a comeback, call it a takeover. “a touch of the beat” is a quintessential summer album, defined in every aspect. Never have the sisters sounded so good.
“a touch of the beat gets you up on your feet gets you out and then into the sun” is available on all streaming services.