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Artist: Aly & A.J.
Label: Hollywood

Aly and A.J. Milchaka followed up on their Disney Channel star status by making some decently sunny pop on their first album a couple of years ago. Enough of their Christianity was evident on it for them to get some CCM radio play from it. The record could have been stronger, but yay for them. And the sisters have another cheer coming for their bold witness in the general market press, such as their interview for Blender.

Not having purchased nor been serviced with the deluxe edition of their debut nor the acoustic Christmas album that followed, I'll trust a general market rock critic friend who told me that Aly & A.J.'s songwriting has grown more nuanced and mature. They sound to have grown up plenty to have made Insomniatic, but it puts them in a peculiar commercial position.

In dedicating a full long-player nearly totally to the guff they've taken from boys--either in real life or as imaginary songwriting foils--or the confidence they have in their own feminine wiles, the Milchakas make morally sound, sonically captivating artistry that says next to nothing, explicit or implicit, about the faith.

Since the girls still thank the Lord in the liner notes, let's just assume that either the quality of young suitors they've attracted hasn't been very high, or they have active, romantic imaginations inclined to tragedy.

The first radio single, "Potential Breakup Song," offers some hope in its final chorus, where they indicate that it might be a potential make-up song instead. The whole number, however, distills so many elements as to create a frenzy. Think '80s Latin freestyle and a '50s calypso/cha cha hybrid forced through current neo-new wave disco-punk--and just a touch of T-Pain's vocoder, it sounds like.

No other song may sop up that much history, but the gals go plenty other places in their self-affirming revelry (the positively tough "huh!" in "Bullseye," "Like Whoa") and dismissals to commitment-o-phobic dudes who didn't know how good they had it with one of these lasses ("Division" [written out like the mathematical symbol], "Like It Or Leave It").

Production is punchy throughout and often flirts with the red end of the EQ meter. Aly & A.J. rock throughout, like you might wish would BarlowGirl would if they weren't so beholden to church-sponsored gigging. Last I checked, Christian bookstores can get Insomniatic through regular distribution channels. I'll have to think about whether it belongs there as much as their previous work, but it will be at home in the collections of anyone wanting an ear candy testament of young women who know their worth--to the guys who would date them, if not the Lord.

Jamie Lee Rake  August 7, 2007