So 78Violet (the girls formerly known as Aly & AJ) are back with a brand new single and video, “Hothouse,” and it’s all very big and unusual and there’s a lot to talk about.
The song sounds like nothing that’s currently on the market: Produced by David Kahne (who’s worked with everyone from Stevie Nicks to Linkin Park) and written with Mike Einziger (the guitarist from Incubus), there’s an alt-rock edge to “Hothouse” even though, at first listen, it’s relatively sedate. It’s kind of redolent everything at once — the harmonies are like ’60s girl groups, the crisp melody evokes the millennial Disney pop of their origins, there’s some weird psych-folk influence to how dreamy and ambient it is, but there’s also shades of Lana Del Rey‘s sinister noir edge and the twee sweetness of Frank + Derol.
“Hothouse” is dynamic in the way most mainstream pop records aren’t: The songcraft betrays a very deliberate pop sensibility, and yet there’s virtually no commercial appeal to it; that is, it’s too pop for the cool kids and alt blogs, but mainstream radio’s never going to play it. (All my favorite songs are like this.)
As for the video, it’s a doozy, belonging firmly to the Lana Del Rey’s “Ride” and Taylor Swift‘s “I Knew You Were Trouble” school of sweeping tortured-girl Americana; it’s completely derivative but also so obscenely gorgeous that it doesn’t really matter. Literally every shot could be screencapped, posted to Tumblr, and get 10,000 reblogs. Seriously.
As a statement of intent, “Hothouse” tells you everything you need to know: They’re grown-up, stunning and have a sound that pushes them well beyond their teen-pop roots but won’t betray their original fans. It’s not a exciting debut from a promising new artist, nor is it a return to form for one of the most likable pop acts of the last decade — it’s both.
Watch up top.