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Acoustic Hearts of Winter is Aly & AJ's second studio album that was released on September 26, 2006 by Hollywood Records.

TracklistingEdit

  1. Greatest Time Of Year
  2. Joy To The World
  3. We Three Kings
  4. The First Noel
  5. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  6. Silent Night
  7. I'll Be Home For Christmas
  8. Let It Snow
  9. Deck The Halls
  10. Little Drummer Boy
  11. Not This Year

Target bonus tracks

  1. We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  2. Winter Wonderland
  3. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree

Album BackgroundEdit

During the summer of 2006 (after wrapping up the production & recording of their debut album, "Into the Rush"), Aly & AJ began recording their first Christmas album.

Antonina Armato and Tim James who worked on the duo's debut album and several other Disney-related acts, were recruited to executive produce the effort.

The duo anticipated finishing the album by the end of the summer, in order for it to be released for the holiday season.

Aly & AJ thought it ironic that they were prepping a Christmas album during the hottest days of the year.

Alyson Michalka told the Saginaw News that producers Armato and James filled the studio with Christmas decorations, Christmas cookies, and a tree with gifts to open after they were done, in order for them to get in the Christmas spirit.

CompositionEdit

"Acoustic Hearts of Winter" is musically based on Christmas music with pop, pop rock and teen pop inclinations.

All songs from the album were produced by Antonina Armato and Tim James. Aly & AJ (along with executive producers Armato and James) adapted and arranged most of the cover songs on the album.

Many of the songs incorporate heavy instrumentation, such as guitar, cello, percussion, bass, and piano.

The album is mainly composed of cover versions of Christmas carols and contemporary holiday classics, while two original numbers are included. "Joy to the World", "We Three Kings", "The First Noel", "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", and "Silent Night" are religious traditional carols.

Also included are the traditional "Deck the Halls", as well as "I'll Be Home for Christmas", "The Little Drummer Boy", originally performed by Harry Simeone and "Let It Snow", notably performed by Vaughan Monroe.

The album's opening number "Greatest Time of Year", the first of the album's two originals, was written by Aly & AJ, Armato, and James.

The second original and closing track, "Not This Year" is a reflection about past Christmases, and how the current is different. According to the duo, the song is dedicated to their grandmother Carmen, who died on Christmas Eve a few years previous.

On the 2007 edition of the album exclusively available at retailer Target, the traditionals "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and "Winter Wonderland" were bonus tracks, as well as "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" (originally performed by Brenda Lee).

Chart PerformanceEdit

On the chart dated December 2, 2006, (nearly two months after the album's initial release), "Acoustic Hearts of Winter" debuted at #78 on the Billboard 200, where it peaked

The album remained inside the top half of the chart for three weeks, and maintained a position inside the top 200 albums for seven weeks.

On the Billboard Top Holiday Albums chart (on the chart issued November 25, 2006), the album debuted at #20. A week later, it moved up to #14, spending 14 weeks on the chart.

"Acoustic Hearts of Winter" was the second best-selling Holiday album of the 2006 holiday season.

During the 2007 and 2008 holiday seasons, the album re-entered the Holiday Albums chart at #45 and #28, respectively. It had sold 110,000 copies in the United States to date.

Critical ReceptionEdit

Matt Collar of Allmusic complimented the classic Christmas songs composed in a "light, contemporary pop fashion," noting Aly & AJ's original songs as standouts on the album.

Logan Leasure of Jesus Freak Hideout commended the duo's "powerhouse" vocals on the tracks, but said carols such as "The First Noel" and "Deck the Halls" were a bit boring, due to the acoustic feel of the set.

Overall, Leasure said: "This album has its good share of standout tracks that are sure to satisfy any fan of modern Christmas music. He specifically pointed out "Little Drummer Boy" and the impressive lyrical content of "Not This Year."

Tampa Bay Times critic Sean Daly praised the duo's original songs, on which they "ditch the wispy routine." On the other hand, he viewed the rest of the album as "flat and forgettable."

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