The aptly named Ten Years lands a decade after the sister duo’s last release as Aly & AJ. With a runtime of just over 15 minutes, their new EP simultaneously succeeds in impressing the staunchest of critics and revitalizes hope for the future of pop music. After teasing the record with two singles, “Take Me” and “I Know”, the sisters have broken back into the genre they were once fully a part of but this time, they’ve traded in their faux teen angst for vulnerable femininity.
With the four tracks that make up Ten Years, Alyson and Amanda Joy Michalka establish their place in the world of sweet-voiced pop angels currently inhabited by the likes of Selena Gomez and HAIM. Ethereal synthesizer beats, reminiscent of 1980s acts such as Berlin and Naked Eyes, mesh with uplifting grown-up lyrics to create music that distinguishes them from their contemporaries. In a genre currently filled with dark themes and swear words, Ten Years is a welcome candlelight without evoking any resemblance to an after-school special.
If the album art for “Take Me” was any indication of their revival — it features a semi-suggestive photo of a woman’s lower half, as she walks away — we know that this is not the same, sweet-faced, openly-religious sister pairing from the Disney Channel.
And there’s the music video directed by the outlandish auteur Alex Ross Perry and shot on 8mm film. In it, the sisters appear as vampires, swaying over their victims with fresh blood on their lips, outfitted in pink furry sweaters, then pouting in a bubbling hot tub. We should have seen it coming: the hazy, nostalgia-tinged aesthetic of this video was a direct forecast of their comeback.
Aly & AJ have consistently maintained their own brand of fashion-forward positivity throughout the years. Instead of outfitting themselves in revealing clothes, peppering their lyrics with obscenities and sexual innuendos, they’ve stayed true to themselves, while also bending and evolving to suit the current times.
This is something their Hollywood Records-mates (Vanessa Hudgens, Hilary Duff, Miley Cyrus, the list goes on) caught onto a little too late. And, although the sisters were not Disney Channel’s highest bets at the time, the last full-length album the Michalka sisters released on their label, Insomniatic (which featured the manic yet catchy screw-you-banger, “Potential Breakup Song”) debuted at No. 15 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart and remained there for 18 total weeks.
After this four-song EP dropped last Friday, November 17th, fans immediately demanded more from the two. “We paid for the EP out of pocket & wanted to see how people responded to the new sound before going forward with a full album”, the sisters wrote in a post on their joint Twitter account. If the rapid and fevered response is any indication, we can only hope that the sisters and their producers, Jamie Sierota (formerly of Echosmith) and Ryan Spraker, are geared up to create and release the pop album their audience craves.
“Just the fact that ’80s music made people feel so good, I think it was an era where people were putting out records that made people want to roll their windows down and go on a road trip. We wanted to make an album that felt like that,” Alyson Michalka told Billboard in an interview earlier this fall.
And damn, did they.
For other equally as vibey comebacks you might have missed but should definitely know about, check out Brit’s Spotify playlist Autumn Revival.