Aly & AJ have spent over a decade putting an eternal creative truth into practice: you don’t find your voice by waiting around; you create it, by writing through. After rising to fame as teen stars in the worlds of Disney pop and TV sitcoms - beloved right at the cross-section of millennials and Gen Z, as evidenced by the recent runway TikTok revival of their 2007 kiss-off “Potential Breakup Song” - the sisters have quietly worked on songs. They chiseled away at their craft, manifesting themselves honestly.
Their first album in 14 years is called a touch of the beat gets you up on your feet gets you out and then into the sun, which is just right. This long and winding name befits their singular journey through music, a title full of rhythm and poetry, but with an ease and a brightness: All qualities that help define the newly independent sound of Aly & AJ. Having survived the slick, hyper-manicured pop sphere with their souls in tact, the Torrance, California-born duo - and lifelong musical collaborators - have transformed their sound into something looser and more personal. (Along the way, they produced the 2015 Richard Linklater-inspired film, Weepah Way for Now, based on their own experiences of sisterhood, stardom, and growth.)
From the sparkling rush of “Pretty Places” and “Listen!!!” to the stay-at-home waltz of “Slow Dancing” and the aching acoustic ballad “Hold Out,” a touch of the beat is the sound of two women in flight. At the core is still Aly & AJ’s preternatural melodic talents and virtuosic harmonies. But with a team of collaborators at the vanguard of alternative pop-producer Yves Rothman (Yves Tumor, Miya Folick, Freya Ridings) and co-writer Jorge Elbrecht (Sky Ferreira, Japanese Breakfast, Wild Nothing)—they’ve incorporated sunstruck guitars and subtle electronic flourishes, going full dream-rock. “We were experimenting, playing with the kinds of songs we wanted to release and the kinds of artists we want to be,” Aly said of their sonic recalibration. Other guests include Jack Tatum of dream-pop band Wild Nothing, Voidz guitarist Amir Yaghmai and bassist Jake Bercovici, guitarist Samuel Stewart (Lo Moon), and drummer James McAlister (Taylor Swift, Sufjan Stevens, The National). Aly & AJ also called upon some personal feminist rock heroes, like Heart’s Nancy Wilson and Melissa Etheridge.
Aly & AJ are now at a point where they can celebrate their unique past -“We’ve become these accidental TikTok queens,” AJ laughs - while staying true to a vision that feels right to them. In an inspiring turn, they even re-recorded “Potential Breakup Song,” ridding it of the AutoTune that defined so much 2000s pop and singing an explicit update of the lyrics (which their fans had been requesting for years). “It’s funny to have been making music together for so long, to be able to finish each other’s sentences and perfectly match our voices to each other,” Aly reflects. “Some people will ask, ‘Who’s singing on this?’ And it’s both of us: our third voice. We have a third voice that comes from my and AJ’s voices together.”
From the very beginning, “Pretty Places” captures that magic: “All we’ve got is us now,” Aly & AJ sing together, as this charged new music blooms into a glorious sprawl. It’s the best song of Aly & AJ’s career, an ode to autonomy and the beginning of a new chapter. On a touch of the beat, a “pretty” place is wherever you are with your person, where you can be yourselves together. “The basis of that song was: we can pack up, move, go anywhere, we can be in a whole other city tomorrow if we want,” Aly said. “We can change our whole destiny, our whole life,” and AJ finished her thought: “Nothing’s stopping us.”