A few years ago (all the way back in 2006), when Hannah Montana (err… MILEY CYRUS), the Jonas Brothers, and High School Musical were all the rage, there were a few artists who were… kinda underrated in the Disney scene. One of these artists/bands: two sisters named Aly and AJ.
I remember when I was around 6 years old, their music videos would play on Disney Channel all the time. So I liked them (I also liked Jordan Pruitt, the Jonas Brothers, and MILEY CYRUS (for the millionth time, she’s not Hannah Montana anymore!) for the same reason. Kinda strange; a little kid, liking all these artists who aimed more towards the teenage demographic. But I DIDN’T CARE, I LOVED IT!)
Last year, I came across their music again while doing research for a website my mom was designing. Their song, “Never Far Behind”, was in the “Inspirational” category, which I was looking for (inspirational songs for the previously-mentioned site). This led me to re-discover their debut album, “Into The Rush” (one of the songs from that album, “No One” was also on Disney Channel in 2005/06)
Shortly after recording that album, the girls decided to record a Christmas album (or, their record label decided that they were going to record a Christmas album). Ironically, they recorded this in the summer of 2006, during the hottest days of the year. And just recently (i.e. YESTERDAY), I purchased their album and decided this was the perfect opportunity to review it (for sentimental purposes).
So, how did I come across this little project called “Acoustic Hearts of Winter”? Well, one of the songs from this album, “Deck The Halls” was in Bethany’s (macbarbie07) Christmas room-decorating video. I liked that song the minute I listened to it, which prompted me to get the album. Now, I present to you, a track-by-track review of this album!
1. “Greatest Time of Year”: I think I already reviewed this song a couple years ago, with my review of the Disney Channel Holiday album, but I’m gonna say this again. This song is TOTALLY AWESOME! It’s the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit, even if the band who performs the song isn’t popular anymore. If you have seen the holiday movie, “The Santa Clause 3“, this song was actually used to promote the movie, and the official video is one of the special features on the DVD.
2. “Joy to the World”: Now we’ve gone from upbeat pop-rock to slowed-down acoustic. This style of music will remain for a few tracks. I must admit, Aly & AJ have AMAZING voices, and this is one of the tracks that showcases their “powerhouse” vocals (although nothing can beat Ariana Grande’s version of “Last Christmas”. Nothing.). They appear to have added some original lyrics to the song, which I have to give them props for doing so. Not all artists can do that successfully.
3. “We Three Kings”: Beautiful. That’s all I have to say about this. The same applies for the next 2 tracks.
4. “The First Noel”: (see track 3)
5. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”: (see track 3)
6. “Silent Night”: I have heard quite a few versions of Silent Night already this year; Taylor Swift, Drew (from season 1 of The X Factor USA), and now Aly & AJ have all covered this song. However, Aly & AJ’s version is the best so far. Sure, Taylor Swift did a great job making the song her own, and the piano/vocals in Drew’s version are breathtakingly amazing, but there’s something about Aly & AJ’s version of this song that… I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s just… awesome!
7. “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”: I LOVE THIS SONG!!!!!!!! It’s absolutely perfect. Who cares if they’re not popular anymore, Aly & AJ still did a great job with this song! This is actually a song I could picture Ariana Grande or Demi Lovato doing for a Christmas album. This one and Silent Night.
8. “Let It Snow”: That’s exactly what I was thinking recently in terms of the weather, I want it to be another white Christmas this year, so just let it snow a little bit more! LOL! This song is pretty much like the rest, although it is slightly boring in some ways.
9. “Deck The Halls”: Some reviews I’ve read say that this song is “slightly boring” due to the fact that the only instrument used here is the guitar. It’s an acoustic Christmas album, that’s the whole point of why they arranged it like this! The song is really awesome, and I don’t know about you, but it definitely puts me into the Christmas spirit 🙂
10. “Little Drummer Boy”: Ok, now we’re getting back into the upbeat pop-rock style again! Whoever decided to re-imagine a traditional Christmas song like this, did a great job!
11. “Not This Year”: This is another original written by Aly & AJ themselves, and it really stands out from the rest of the songs. It’s a tribute to a relative who passed away during the holiday season some years ago, and displays how well these girls can put together a song on their own, fill it with emotion, and leave you in awe.
12. “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (Bonus Track): Completely acoustic. Featuring the sound of sleigh bells. Could it get anymore festive? No, I didn’t think it could.
13. “Winter Wonderland” (Bonus Track): They started this one with original lyrics too. “Over the ground/Like a mantel of white/A heaven of diamonds/Shines out through the night/2 hearts are thrilling/In spite of the chill/In the weather/Ohhh the weather” they sing before going into the rest of this traditional Christmas carol. Then they also added more original lyrics halfway through the song. “Love knows no season/Love knows no crime/Romance can blossom/Any old time/Here in the open/Walking and hoping/Together, together…” With these original lyrics, it shows that only a few artists can add original lyrics to songs like this and pull it off 🙂
15. “Jingle Bell Rock” (Bonus Track): Wow, what a perfect way to close out the album! Their cover of “Jingle Bell Rock”… rocks! Literally, it’s like this huge teen-pop/rock song, with an upbeat instrumental track and everything! (Oh, and bonus points for Aly exclaiming, “How’s that for a Christmas song?” at the end) I don’t know what the heck I was thinking, saying that the Jonas Brothers’ Christmas song was the best. This song is much better by 100%.