a touch of the beat gets you up on your feet gets you out and then into the sun

a touch of the beat gets you up on your feet gets you out and then into the sun

Long gone are the days of “Potential Breakup Song.” On their first full-length LP in 14 years, sisters Aly & AJ Michalka, beloved in the mid-2000s for their Disney-brand teenage pop-rock, have grown up. First came the EPs: 2017’s Ten Years and 2019’s Sanctuary, a new era for the duo defined by a masterful understanding of ’80s-indebted synth-pop. Now they’ve looked back even further, pulling from ’60s and ’70s rock to craft their own kind of modern classics. “We set out to make a West Coast album—this California energy,” Aly tells Apple Music. “Hopefully it gets people feeling good about the state of the world again.” “This is a self-help record,” adds AJ. “We love it.” There are pleasures to be found, from the Americana road-trip opener “Pretty Places” and the big pop drum fills of “Paradise” to the romanticism of “Slow Dancing” and the album’s surprising collaborations, including Heart’s Nancy Wilson and Wild Nothing’s Jack Tatum on the sunny-sounding “Listen!!!” and Melissa Etheridge on closer “Hold Out.” Below, Aly & AJ break down their album, track by track. “Pretty Places” AJ: “It’s an anthem for the open road. It's one of the first songs that helped steer the direction of this album, and I really feel like this is a song that we'll look back on for many years to come and feel very proud that we wrote this. You don't feel that way all the time with your own music. It’s nice to feel that confidence.” “Lost Cause” Aly: “The thing that I really love about this song is AJ’s stacked harmonies on the verses. And then that breakdown bridge lyric is really moving to me: ‘Maybe it's just come to an end/Don't need to bring us back from the dead/Maybe it just ran its course/And trying too hard only makes it worse.’ It feels so true to those moments when you know you've given it your all, but it's dead. It's over.” “Break Yourself” AJ: “The drums were layered three times over, so everything you hear is stacked. And we promised each other there's got to be a horn section at the end, and extended it out. That became one of my favorite parts on the entire record.” “Slow Dancing” AJ: “It's one of the older ones, along with 'Pretty Places.' Originally, it was an ’80s-inspired synth-pop tune. Then we flipped it upside down. It's midtempo—the pandemic love song of the record.” Aly: “We knew we were going to release a lot of singles, because we felt like there were so many good songs that we wanted them to have their moment. By choosing 'Slow Dancing,' it felt like, 'We're going to ease you into this, and make you slow-dance in your living room.'” “Paradise” Aly: “There's this fantastic quote from Henry Miller's book Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch that inspired the meaning of this song. Basically, it is about the yearning of wanting paradise, but not being brave enough to stay once you've actually reached it. It’s based on how visitors coming out to Big Sur don't really have the courage to live out a life of paradise. They go back to their own life once they've been out there for a few days—where paradise is actually achievable. Paradise is tangible, we just are never brave enough to actually live it.” “Symptom of Your Touch” AJ: “The combination of analog synths, guitars, live drums, cello, violin, electric violin—the song has a classic feeling, but it still feels like a modern pop song. It is really hard to achieve that balance.” Aly: “This song is a great pairing with ‘Paradise.’ I also like the subject matter of it: It's like knowing that you're just doomed if you meet up and see this person, because every single time you better fall back in with them. It is toxic.” “Lucky to Get Him” AJ: “It’s hard to convey advice in a song, because it can come out cheesy. I like to think that this song is a character piece, because it's about guiding a friend. We joke that this song feels like Dolly Parton speaking to a young version of herself about what she would do differently, romantically, if she could go back in time. And so this is our Dolly Parton advice song.” “Listen!!!” Aly: “We’ve known Nancy [Wilson] for over 10 years. We’re huge fans. We sent her this song and a couple of others. She came back with these great parts, and we were super honored that she could be a part of this. And then with Jack [Tatum], he made the song a little bit weirder and off-sounding, which I loved.” “Don’t Need Nothing” Aly: “This song was written in Denver in the winter of 2019. We took the album title from the chorus lyrics. It felt like this was the pinnacle song of the record. It sums up the message, too: It’s a song with a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a response to anguish and the fact that we feel like we need so many things in life. We need our friends, our family, and the things that truly make us happy, which usually aren't physical possessions. It's usually experiences.” “Stomach” AJ: “We, miraculously, wrote this song entirely over Zoom in May of 2020, when the pandemic was at its peak, with our really good friend Olen Kittelsen from a band called Armors. This song hurts when you listen to it, because I think the lyrics are devastating. But funnily enough, Aly's husband wrote the line 'I just can’t stomach being your ex-wife,' and they have a great relationship. It’s not reflective of them, but we're children of divorce. The song weaves in and out, but it doesn't just put you in this horrible rut. There’s hope around the corner.” “Personal Cathedrals” AJ: “We wanted to write a song that completely captured the feeling of Aly and I having to go to an event that we don't want to be at. We tend to become two wallflowers at parties in Hollywood, even though we're very outgoing people. We end up ordering a drink and standing in a corner with each other. That first chord you hear immediately brings you into that uncomfortable space.” “Hold Out” Aly: “It’s the one true ballad on the album. AJ and I are not big ballad writers, and I don't tend to gravitate towards straight-up ballads either, so we set out to write a ballad that we were really proud of. To me, 'Hold Out' really encapsulates the importance of asking for help when you need it the most, and not being ashamed of that. Melissa Etheridge etched the final notes of this outro with her incredible guitar playing, just adding that perfect element to the song.”

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