It took too long, it took too long, it took too long for them to come back with a new LP, but Aly & AJ have definitely made a splashy return with their first album in nearly 14 years, A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun, their fourth studio album altogether. The lengthily-titled album, which takes its name from the lyrics of their track “Don’t Need Nothing” was released May 7, and is a refreshing return from the former Disney Channel pop staples.
It makes sense that Aly & AJ took so much time off. The duo released their first three albums in a three-year span, their third album “Insomniatic,” which delved into a much more electronic sound than any of their previous or current work, spawned the single “Potential Breakup Song” which the duo reimagined for a more grown-up audience in December with newly-reworked explicit lyrics.
The 2007 single’s lyrics weren’t the only thing that has grown up in the past 14 years. Aly & AJ have branched out, with Aly starring in the TV shows “iZombie” and “Hellcats,” and AJ has had a regular role on “The Goldbergs” since its first season, as well as having the main role in the show’s spinoff “Schooled.” They’ve also expanded musically, rebranding themselves as 78violent and leaving Hollywood Records in 2009, before returning to their original name in 2015.
For fans who grew up with the duo and wanted a similar sound to their Disney Channel-starring days, their hopes were dashed from the first few chords of the beachy lead-off song “Pretty Places,” which evokes a California summer feeling. Aly & AJ have both said that “Pretty Places” is not only their favorite song on the album, but their favorite song that they’ve written.
The warm feeling lasts throughout the album, especially evident in “Paradise.” The album was recorded through the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s astonishing that Aly & AJ were able to bring such overwhelming positivity and happiness to a record during that time.
While the music has evolved, listening to Aly & AJ sing together, especially in songs like “Listen!!!” will always lead even their oldest fans to think about their nostalgic memories of the sisters, who have been releasing music together since 2005. The album ends on “Hold Out,” the most melancholic point on the album, with lyrics “You always told me that these days would get better/But I’m afraid that you were wrong,” being some of the only proof that the album was recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic, although the dispirited feelings reflected through them are also, of course, timeless.
It’s clear that the pop duo has grown up with this new album, which is a worthy contender for album of the summer, and it’s a welcome change. It’s light and feel-good, perfect for a summer in which the end of the pandemic that has trapped so many of us in our homes feels close enough to grasp (although we’re not there yet), but once we get there this could easily be the album played at beaches and at parties, celebrating not only a return to form for Aly & AJ but also a return to form for all of us.