Aly and AJ occupy a space on the nebulous fringe of mainstream pop. As survivors of the Radio Disney machine of the 2000s, they are showbiz enthusiasts, artists who are eager to try new fads and willing to do whatever it takes to keep working, whether that means incorporating new sounds or change his name in hopes of escaping a record deal. They spent a good chunk of the early 2010s working as 78Violet, a tactic that didn’t garner any success but helped them hone their craft. Its growth was evident in 2021 A touch of the rhythm gets you on your feet, takes you out and then the sun takes you out, their first full-length album in 14 years. Drenched in sounds borrowed from new wave records, a touch of the rhythm it showcased a duo that had matured, opting for smooth melodies over effervescent hooks and rhythms. She was deliberately a far cry from the processed, fizzy bubblegum of “Potential Breakup Song,” which gave them their only Top 40 hit in 2007, just as the era of teen pop was winding down.
With its digitized, stylized retro shine, a touch of the rhythm it sounded fresh but not quite current; Beneath her glossy veneer, she stuck to melodic values learned from old soft rock and oldies radio. Aly and AJ’s allegiance to classic tropes only intensifies in with love from, a brighter, tighter and more impactful album than its predecessor. In every way, it is effectively a sequel to a touch of the rhythm. The duo reunites with producer Yves Rothman and several associated songwriters, retaining the mellifluous mood while sharpening the melodies and beefing up the vocal harmonies.
Superficially, these additions could read like country or folk, particularly when paired with a sighing steel guitar like on the ballad “Blue Dress.” Like many Nashville professionals, Aly and AJ emphasize craftsmanship over confession (there may be deep sentiments at the heart of their music, but they’re restrained and sculpted into a multipurpose universality) and have an affection for melodies that evoke a performance. sun in the desert Yet these very things are what propelled the sun-bleached Southern California soft rock of the 1970s. Fleetwood Mac is an obvious touchstone: deep within the fade of “Baby Lay Your Head Down” is a searing guitar solo deliberately evocative of Lindsey Buckingham, though Aly and AJ don’t convey an ounce of Stevie Nicks’ otherworldly sexiness. They’re a pair of Christine McVies, sweet, constant purveyors of warm, comforting tunes.
more than 40 minutes, with love from it circulates quickly through pleasantly polished confections. “Open to Something and That Something Is You” rises from the duo’s harmonies, a sound that is at the heart of the intricate web of “With Love From,” an expert evocation of the brilliance of tango at night. Rothman takes pains to make sure Aly and AJ aren’t strict revivalists, which helps give the chorus of “Love You This Way” a deep-sea, dream-pop sheen. He muddies eras and blurs styles, dressing Aly and AJ in digital tapestries while keeping the focus on their harmonies and subconscious-pulling melodies. Perhaps in another decade, these songs might have sat comfortably alongside hits by Heart, Elton John, or even Wilson Phillips. But in 2023, they look like gleaming artifacts from a bygone era.
The sense that Aly and AJ don’t inhabit their own era is an ironic byproduct of the professional craft they exhibit in with love from. A life spent living inside the entertainment machine gives the duo instincts for crowd-pleasing and no sense of zeitgeist; it seems purely accidental that they draw so much from Fleetwood Mac, who also serves as a touchstone for dozens of younger, edgier bands today. Raised on classic rock radio and late-era MTV, Aly & AJ are constitutionally motivated to deliver a brilliant product, the kind of record that would have crammed the covers of department stores in the 2000s. Their comfortable distance from the industry machine they grew up in, Aly and AJ still gravitate toward big-hearted, colorful pop—a dated stance that tarnishes the shine of their new direction.