Aly & AJ’s “Ten Years” Breakthrough

By Rhiannon Levengood

It has been ten very long years since we had a solid release from sister duo Aly & AJ, but the time has finally come as they debut their brand new, appropriately named EP Ten Years. This record features four tracks that give us an inside look at their new synthetic rock sound. And yes, in case you were wondering, ten years was definitely worth the wait.

Ten Years opens with Aly & AJ’s first single “Take Me”, a powerhouse theme that’s driven by a synthesized piano melody as the sisters demand attention from their unnamed subject. The vocals are reminiscent of their sophomore album Insomniatic, while the instrumentals push forth a new vibe entirely. They are not the same Disney Channel girls that we fell in love with back in 2005; and after this first track, you forgive them instantly for evolving.

The next two songs are much more serene. “I Know” and “Promises” are both powered by a beat laid out on keyboard. Their electronic sound is refined and elegantly produced, but with these songs specifically, the focus is more on their voices and lyrics. AJ’s best vocals on Ten Years come in “Promises”, giving the song a dreamy, light sensation with her soft falsetto voice. “I Know” touches on mental health in a gentle, compassionate way that easily makes this song one of my favorites. The very first verse holds my favorite lyrics on the whole EP:

“It’s a state of mind that’s bringing you down
So tell me what will get you out
You haven’t left your bed in days
And I know we’ve all seen better days.”

Ten Years concludes way too soon with another upbeat track entitled “The Distance.” Altogether, this EP embodies the right amount of nostalgia for long-time Aly & AJ fans and the right amount of growth to bring new listeners on the ride. It’s been ten years, but the girls hit the bullseye with this record. We can’t wait to see what else they’ve got up their sleeves.


Makena Gets Real with new single “Run Away”

By Paula Araujo

A Colorado native with a voice slightly reminiscent to Zooey Deschanel but with a modern twist when it comes to delivery, lyrics, and composition makes Makena an artist to watch. Makena’s brand new single “Run Away” is a refreshingly honest tale from a rarely told narrative as someone who is unable to give back the love they’ve received. The subtle upbeat track helps cover up the dark undertones of the lyrics. In the chorus, Makena is pleading you to “run away” from her now. Luckily, this new track is so good,  listehners certainly won’t be running away.

Read on as we discuss music, influences and career goals with Makena.

What was the process like creating your latest single “Run Away?”
So I wrote Run Away about a year ago, and it was one of those songs that just came to me. I wrote it in a night. The lyrics and melody sort of poured out of me. It wasn’t over thought and that’s what I love about it.

How would you describe your sound?
I would describe my sound as an alt/pop or synth/pop genre, with a good balance of hard and soft. My lyrics tend to be more dark, angry or sad, and I really focused on making the music more up beat and happy sounding. My aesthetic for this recent project was to create a good balance between that.

Do you have any favorite lyrics that you’ve written?
So I feel like my favorite lyrics are always from the most recent song I’ve written. I wrote this song called “Lines” and I absolutely love the chorus.

“The boy behind the beats Has me tangled in his sheets,
And he’s lying through his teeth, as he’s kissing on my cheek

Addicted to his eyes, as he lies between my thighs
But if he is doing lines, why am I the one that’s high?”

What have you discovered about yourself throughout the process of creating new music?
I think over time, I’ve really learned how to make music that represents me and the experiences in my life. I used to only write about my friends relationships, but I wasn’t ready to open up about my own troubles and write about them. But through creating new music, I’ve become more vulnerable.

What is your favorite aspect of creating or working on a new piece/project?
So I usually write the songs myself, on a piano and guitar, and then bring it to a producer. My favorite part is seeing the songs transform from just an instrument/vocal into a completely produced song. I also love collaborating with other artist and producers.

Where do you draw inspiration from? Which artists inspire you?
I draw inspiration a lot for experiences in my life, or the people in my life. I think it’s the most honest and raw material that I can write about, and it’s usually not forced.

I have so many inspiration, Brendon Urie from Panic! At The Disco, is by far one of my biggest inspiration. I love the music he creates, and he has one of the best voices I’ve ever heard. I also love Halsey, she’s created an amazing brand for herself, and she writes some the most bad ass lyrics out there. One of my other main inspirations is Sia, she has such an unique sound and she’s one of the most incredible songwriters in the industry right now.

What has been the most challenging thing so far?
For me the most challenging thing is comparing myself to others, and dealing with people that don’t believe what I’m doing is a smart career move. Self doubt, is definitely the hardest thing to overcome, and when people are trying to push you down, it’s even harder to bring yourself back up from that. But when you surround yourself with people that do believe in you, and support you it makes it a lot easier.

What has been the most rewarding thing so far?
I think the most rewarding thing, is when I get messages, tweets or people reach out to me and tell me how much a song of mine helped them, or inspired them to do music.

What are your long term and short term goals?
My long term goal is to play Red Rocks as a headliner. I grew up 15 minutes away from there, and I’ve seen some of the most incredible shows, so I would love the opportunity to play!

My short terms goals as of now, it to keep writing and creating new music, and also to start opening for local band and touring acts in the Denver area, and hopefully move to LA next year!  

What do you want people to take away from your music?
I want people to related to the music, and feel like they aren’t alone. I also want people to be inspired to follow their dreams, whether is music or not.

What is your advice for other artists out there? What was the best advice you’ve been given?
The best advice I was given is to never give up, and to keep going even when it gets hard. I would completely offer this to any other artists, because the music industry is hard and tough, but if you keep going you’ll always have a chance at success.

When was the moment you knew you wanted to do this for a living? Do you recall your earliest memory involving music?
I feel like there isn’t a distinct moment I decided I wanted to do music. I feel like it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. But the earliest memory I have performing was when I was 4 years old, I was singing Karaoke  to Britney Spears at a local restaurant in Lakewood.

What was the first concert you went to?
Britney Spears

What are the last 5 songs you listened to?

  1.     Golden Dandelions – Barns Courtney
  2.     Gorgeous – Taylor Swift
  3.     Bellyache – Billie Eilish  
  4.     Make It Up To You – Julia Michaels
  5.     Bad at Love – Halsey

Any particular album you’ve been loving recently?
Yeah, Julia Michael’s “Nervous System”, it’s such an amazing pop album.

Keep with with Makena by checking out the links below.