Aly & AJ – Pretty Places | Review
by Julie Toft Carlsen
If the name Aly & AJ sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because you either knew them in their late 2000s Disney Channel days or you’ve come across the iconic Potential Breakup Song during its pop culture revival on TikTok. The sister-duo has been releasing new music since 2017, when the aptly named EP Ten Years marked their comeback to the music industry. Since then, they’ve toured the US and released a full album, We Don’t Stop, which combined the previous EP and since-released singles.
Leading into their new musical era, their latest singles ‘Slow Dancing’, ‘Listen!!!’, and ‘Pretty Places’ mark a continuation of the sound they’ve been developing since their 2017 comeback. A dreamy ballad, ‘Pretty Places’ expresses a longing for the open road and pure escapism. Opening on a playful keyboard riff marks the mood of the song as optimistic or hopeful, rather than one that dwells on the situation they wish to escape from.
The opening line, ‘We could pack up this house, get out of town’, and subsequent ‘You wouldn't need anything else now, would ya? / Just all my books and your old Daytona’, mirrors classic American road trip tropes, whose focus is on the pleasure of the journey and not on the final destination. Courtesy: celebmix
As they continue to sing about the open skies and leaving their painful past behind in favour of ‘all the pretty places’, the song takes on a new meaning in the time of Covid and lockdown. With the restrictions currently placed upon society, impulsively undertaking a cross-country journey seems more like a distant dream than ever before. Even those living the most privileged lives can probably relate to feeling trapped inside circumstances beyond your control at the moment and long for a way to escape to blue skies and the freedom of the open road.
Instead of focusing on entrapment or frustrations, the song celebrates the hope of joy. It is an ode to ‘pretty places’, to escapist dreams and the flaneur, to the comforting idea of better times. Road trips have been a shared theme for Aly & AJ’s latest singles and may be an indicator for the upcoming album, or a tired repetition that lacks imagination; it wouldn’t be fair to make this judgement just yet. I remain hopeful for their upcoming musical projects and have thoroughly enjoyed the ride so far.