March 21 – Insomniatic by Aly & A.j.
Genre: Pop rock
Total tracks: 13*, including one remix of a song from a prior album and one song not included on all editions of the album.
Songs you might know:
– “Potential Breakup Song”
– “Like Whoa”
– “Chemicals React” (note that THIS is the song that was remixed. The version here is not the one often played on Disney Channel back in the day.)
My prior relationship with this album: I actually thoroughly enjoyed Aly & A.j. They are the ones that I compared all other Disney acts to. As a teenager, I saw them as the “real deal” because they actually played guitars and wrote their own songs and what not. I know every lyric of this album. I probably drove my parents crazy by insisting on playing it in the car over and over again. I’m actually seriously considering buying concert tickets for the upcoming Aly & A.j. tour. What you didn’t know they were touring? GUESS YOU’RE NOT A REAL FAN LIKE THE REST OF US. But yes, it’s one of my all time favorites and it’ll be interesting to see if I outgrew it or if it stands the test of time.
My impressions this time around: This album makes me angry there are not more Aly & A.j. albums. It. Is. That. Good. Like, not just good in a nostalgic way, but good enough to make me thing that if Aly & A.j. were just bursting onto the scene in 2019, I would still have the same enthusiasm for them. Yes, it’s definitely a watered down version of rock music much the same as Demi Lovato’s Don’t Forget (click here for that review). However, there’s a creativity and authenticity here that makes it work. While many of the songs still revolve around love and heartbreak, the lyrics have nuance beyond “you’re cool I like you” and “you’re mean I hate you.” The best example of this is “Like It or Leave It” which is arguably the best song of the whole album.
In addition to “Like It Or Leave It,” Insomniatic boasts several other, top notch amazing tracks, notably “Potential Breakup Song” and “If I Could Have You Back.” Each takes familiar relationship tropes, puts just enough spin on them to make them fresh, and injects them with raw energy and emotion. But what really makes this album special is how even the middle-of-the-road tracks are still pretty damn good. “Flattery,” “Division,” and “Silence” aren’t even the main attraction here but still manage to be better than the top tracks of lots of other albums. It really says something when I don’t have a huge urge to skip around to favorite tracks as is so often my habit, and that is the case with Insomniatic.
There are a couple things that I will subtract points on, and one of them is the not-even-on-the-album-anymore song “Blush.” I have a physical copy from 2007 that still includes this soft piano ballad, but other pressings of the album don’t have it, and it seems as that most digital/streaming copies of the album don’t include it either. While “Blush” isn’t quite a BAD song, it’s by far the weakest track of the bunch and noticeably too mature to belong on this particular album.
The other thing is the inclusion of a remix of “Chemicals React.” It’s not as good as the original version that was included on the deluxe edition of their debut album, Into the Rush. Basically, it’s the exact same song but it traded some electric guitar for some acoustic guitar. The problem is they didn’t quite strip it down enough for it to be a thoughtful, unplugged interpretation of the song, and instead it just makes me say “why couldn’t they give me the good version?” The album didn’t need it.
Who would enjoy it? People who don’t want stuff that’s too out there or experimental, but also want something slightly harder than a typical pop album.
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