TRACK REVIEW: ‘Pretty Places’ – Aly & AJ

Since their comeback after a decade long hiatus, sister duo Aly & Aj picked up where they left of, establishing their sound and status among pop’s most compelling and undersung artists. The vibrant 80s electro-synths of the EPs that marked their return – Ten Years and Sanctuary – were just as fresh as the pop-rock of ‘Potential Break-Up Song’ a decade before. Aly & Aj have always managed to tap into the past to find something modern. As they ramp up for the release of their forthcoming album, the duo have taken a 180 from that synth-pop towards the hazy rock of the 60s and 70s in an ode to their home in California, a sound that manifests itself perfectly on latest track ‘Pretty Places’.

Speaking about the album to Bustle, the duo said they aren’t chasing a hit: “We’re not necessarily writing for radio, so if we want our song to be eight minutes long, then great”. That freedom can be found all over ‘Pretty Places’. Following the meandering romance of ‘Slow Dancing’ and vast energy of ‘Listen!!!’, ‘Pretty Places’ finds itself somewhere in between, sliding and soaring like the open road. The track is airy, filled to the brim with nostalgia and joy, calling back to the classic rock of Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles. Piggybacking on the loved up joy of ‘Slow Dancing’, ‘Pretty Places’ continues the idea that you don’t need anything but love and sees the girls explore escapism, finding comfort in the exploring nature with nothing but their lover: “Drive across country, one taillight out / You wouldn’t need anything else now, would ya?”.

Just as they did with the 80s, Aly & Aj manage to capture the era so perfectly, emulating the sounds of the 60s and 70s with unrelenting precision, while still carving their own space in the sound instead of losing themselves in it. Sonically, the track finds its root in Americana, wistful and loose, flowing and ebbing with the thud of the drum and the grind of the guitar, never falling victim to the fear of being too long.

The reason so many of modern pop has looked to the past to find inspiration is because the increasing rules and boundaries of music making: will this stream well, will this go viral on TikTok. These weren’t always questions that pop artists asked themselves and with ‘Pretty Places’, Aly & Aj prove that these aren’t questions pop artists should be asking themselves even today, because if this track is anything to go by, music would be a lot better if we all just stopped asking so many questions and just focused on all the pretty places.

Featured Image: Instagram (@alyandaj)

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