A whole fourteen years have elapsed since Aly & AJ’s last studio album, but the pop duo is finally back on the beat. Best known for their (still iconic) 2007 hit ‘Potential Breakup Song’, the group, formed by sisters Alyson and Amanda Michalka, took a detour under the name 78Violet in 2009 before reclaiming their original name in 2015. Since then, they’ve released two EPs, not to mention one of 2020’s best songs: the 80s-inspired ‘Joan of Arc on the Dance Floor’.
‘A Touch of the Beat’ opens with ‘Pretty Places’, which, at over five minutes long, plays like a frivolous sunset drive down a highway. Then there’s ‘Lost Cause’, which is really anything but—it’s a glitzy, funky number that’s an immediate highlight. “Like we’re a lost cause / Like we’re betting on a dead horse / I try reaching out with both arms / For something that never was,” they trade verses about the demise of a relationship.
The synth-pop influences of their ‘Ten Years’ (2017) and ‘Sanctuary’ (2019) EPs make an appearance on ‘Paradise’ and ‘Symptom of Your Touch’. The former calls to mind Carly Rae Jepsen and Foxes with its thumping bass line. The latter is a return to the euphoria of ‘Pretty Places’—windows down and driving in the summer heat.
But they’re not afraid to get a little experimental, too. ‘Lucky to Get Him’ shows a darker side to their sound. “True love is lucky to find / Just like striking gold / True love comes once in a life / Don’t be the one to let go,” they sing over fuzzy beats. And ‘Personal Cathedrals’ features some of the album’s most sinister melodies, a song about ditching the hedonistic lifestyle that they’ve fallen out of favour with.
Aly & AJ revealed that they set out to make an album influenced by rock music of the 1960s and 1970s that also represented the music of sunny California. If nothing else, the album’s full title—’a touch of the beat gets you up on your feet gets you out and then into the sun’—is a sure nod to those things. And just like the sisters of HAIM did a year ago, Aly & AJ have supplied us with a soundtrack to last the summer, and then some.