It’s been over five years since Aly & AJ started recording their third studio album, and four years since they changed their name to 78Violet and split from Hollywood Records. It’s been so long that it was starting to look like the duo may never make another record again, but I’m relieved to say that they’re back with a new single called “Hothouse,” and it sounds every bit as good a grown up Aly & AJ single should sound.
As surprisingly substantial as Aly & AJ ‘s first two albums are, they were still recorded when the girls were teenagers under a Disney-owned record label, and couldn’t possibly showcase all of the duo’s musical influences. “Hothouse,” however, does. Produced by David Kahne and co-written with Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger, “Hothouse” is a rich and complex pop record, pulling from a dozen different places but refusing to commit to any one in particular. There’s early seventies folk music, squiggly psychadelica, dream-pop and indie-rock; there’s horns and strings and strums, and at one point towards the end, it sounds like a flying saucer is moving in tune with the vocal harmonies.
Basically, if Fleetwood Mac, MGMT, Vanessa Carlton, and Arcade Fire all had an orgy together, and the resulting baby from that orgy grew up to become a pop star, it’d be “Hothouse.”
Kahne, who has produced everything from Paul McCartney and Stevie Nicks to Kelly Clarkson and Lana Del Rey’s unreleased Lizzie Grant album, deserves a lot of the credit for crafting something as coherently diverse as “Hothouse,” but not all of it. Aly & AJ have already proved themselves to be talented singer-songwriters with a knack for clever lyrics and addictive melodies, and their stamp can be found in “Hothouse” by anyone familiar with their first two albums.
The only thing falls short about this comeback is the music video. It’s a pretentious rehash of Lana Del Rey’s “Ride” that employs virtually every bad cliche in the book; a self-indulgent opening monologue, Instagram filters on the camera, pointless black & white shots, hair blowing in slow motion. In one scene, 78Violet braid their hair like Lauren Conrad and run through the countryside draped in an American flag. In another, they’re holding vintage lace umbrellas. They even do the whole pose-in-the-dark-while-illuminated-by-a-single-spotlight thing. As pretty as the whole visual looks, it’s still embarrassingly amateur and unoriginal. The group’s younger fans will probably think it’s arty and stunning, but everyone else will just roll their eyes.
So, to summarize this entire post in four words: Great song, lame video.
Welcome back, girls!