Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

Aly & AJ – Good Love

Past a sign that said potential breakup town…


Eleanor Graham: If “Two Weeks” by FKA Twigs was a pop hit unraveled; “Good Love” is a pop hit exploded. Key components shoot into different corners of the stratosphere: isolated Phil Collins drums, pop harmonies buried in elephantine synths, frantic, fragmented lyrics — “To love somebody! To kiss somebody!” — and a relentless chorus groaning under its own weight. It sounds like the revelations that arrive on hot, empty days distant from real life, like aperol spritz and ill-judged capitalised texts, like your most chaotic 3 AM breakdown and the next day’s perfect sunlight. Elemental; a total hymn of agape and surrender; the song of the summer.

Abdullah Siddiqui: It’s strange to think that I’ve been actively listening to Aly & AJ since I was five years old. Naturally, I am biased. And perhaps it’s that bias talking, but “Good Love” is one of the greatest pop ballads I’ve heard in recent years. It precisely strikes a balance between pop and experimentalism. The sonic makeup is panoramic and deeply elaborate, and aside from a few slight solecisms in the mix, this song is almost perfectly executed.

Alfred Soto: Much has changed since 2008, including an audience’s tolerance for synth duos who specialize in the broad gesture. I don’t hear much beyond bombast in “Good Love,” broadness in search of a gesture. 

Katherine St Asaph: It’s been over a fucking decade since pop songs borrowing from ’80s synthpop lost their novelty. The day I die, I fully suspect the nearest set of speakers to my corpse will be blaring the latest Big 1 label signee, a 22-year-old prostrate at the discography of A Flock of Seagulls. Because that’s the thing: I do still like a lot of these tracks, but too many evoke the wrong part of the ’80s, painstakingly reproducing the decade’s schmaltziest and tinniest sounds. “Good Love” gets good in half two, when it stops trying to be “Crazy For You.” But that first part sounds way longer than one-half.

Will Adams: I still waver on the discourse of “respectability” that inevitably arises when a formerly corporate-backed bubblegum act re-emerges with cooler, more authentic synthpop — this usually coincides with critical re-appraisal from those who pilloried the artist’s early work; look at how real they are now that they’re free from the shackles of big budget pop’s demands! On one hand, these “manufactured” songs still mean a lot to a lot of people. On the other hand, there’s no shortage of artists (often female) who have shared their stories from inside the major label machine, experiences that are at best creatively stifling and at worst traumatic. Aly & AJ’s new sound isn’t a huge leap from something like “Chemicals React,” but the context is the same, and it’s tiresome. “Good Love” hits the marks of that new sound — big tumbling toms, detuned synthbass riff, vocals processed into gauze — but it’s hard to feel much when there are better examples out there.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Sure, it may feel like every conceivable act from the mid-2000s is doing something in this mold– synthy, melancholy-but-not-distractingly-so, with drums reverb-gated to all hell– but this is an especially skillful example. It’s not that any particular part of “Good Love” sticks out (though those drums sound like something grand) but that everything works, tied together by a vocal performance that turns a lyric scattered with both specific notes and broad cliches into something deeply sincere and yearning.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Reads less like formerly bottled-up romantic longing than it does a disenchanted, noncommittal search for intimacy. There’s a strong desire underpinning it all, but the vocal delivery sounds like someone verbalizing how boring it can be to search and wait for a lover. That the wish to “touch somebody” comes with an admittance of its shortcomings (“sometimes touch just isn’t enough”) proves fitting given how “Good Love” sounds static despite its dynamics. The question that seems implicitly posed: is this anhedonia, or are all men just deeply inept?

Julian Axelrod: Aly & AJ don’t quite reach the meteoric heights of “Take Me,” but the formula still yields incredible results. If they want to make a whole album of synth stabs that shake your ribcage and drum fills so big you can see them from space, I certainly won’t be mad. After all, few songs about longing and desperation sound this powerful and self-assured.

Reader average: [9.5] (2 votes)

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