10 years after they ditched their own names in favor of the enigmatic 78violet moniker, Aly & AJ
have returned as, well, Aly & AJ. The Disney pop-rockstar sisters have been out of the limelight for quite a while now, at least while under their own brand, but have returned to making music with the release of today's appropriately titled four-track EP, Ten Years
It's quite a blast from the past seeing the duo make music again, but there's a few noticeable differences between the Radio Disney rock stars of 2007 and the Aly & AJ of today. If you'd only heard Ten Years
without knowing their background, you'd be forgiven for not associating the sisters with Miley Cyrus
(back when she was touring as Hannah Montana, like yeah we're going that far back) and their radio-friendly bubble-gum hits like "Potential Breakup Song" that probably served as a template for a lot of future Taylor Swift material.
is nostalgic, but not in the sense that it takes you back to those Radio Disney days. Gone are the generic cliches, the jangly pop-guitar work, and four-to-the-floor rhythms that made them palatable to such a wide adolescent audience. There is a lot of growing up in this EP; after all, the sisters are pushing their late 20's, but the album also uses a lot of retro-futurist styles to stay bright and engaging.
The 80's influences are readily apparent, as many of the tracks are dripping in glossy synth work, full-bodied bass lines, and generous amounts of drum machines. Ten Years
isn't necessarily a big musical risk, but it doesn't really need to be. Any fan of the old Aly & AJ could pick this album up and appreciate the progression of the duo while not feeling like they've completely abandoned the effervescent style that made them so accessible. Aly & AJ are still here, singing about love and life and all the things they entail, but backed this time by a smartly produced soundtrack that is very reminiscent of the 80's-inspired nostalgia popularized by the likes of M83, Neon Indian, and The Naked and Famous. Xylophonic synths on "I Know" sound like a throwback to The Psychedelic Fur's "Love My Way", and they even throw some pitch-shifted vocals on the track to fill out and create a surprisingly well-rounded and groovy song.
After a long hiatus, it seems like the Michalka sisters are more than ready to embrace their roles as musicians again. And while there's nothing groundbreaking or revolutionary about Ten Years
, the fact of the matter is that the album doesn't need to be that way. Aly & AJ are back, releasing solid bangers, and showing that sometimes growing up isn't all that bad of a thing.