Review #63: Aja, Steely Dan

Karla Clifton
2 min readMar 21, 2021


#63: Aja, Steely Dan

I realized when this album came on that I know next to nothing about Steely Dan. Like, that’s a name I’d heard before, but I couldn’t name a Steely Dan song or what genre they are. So I dove into Aja as a Steely Dan virgin.

A deep dive into their Wikipedia page revealed much. I had NO idea that Steely Dan was a “studio-only” band, at least after 1974. Basically, there are two core members, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. They write all the music themselves and hire session musicians to play them on records. They were planning on touring to support this album after it blew up, but apparently, they canceled the tour once their backing musicians started comparing pay?! That is hysterical.

I ALSO learned the insane way that Steely Dan got their name, which I invite you to look up yourself, because it is x-rated and brilliant.

My mistake right around here was not listening to this all at once. Because I split it up into several different listens instead of binging it all at once, I didn’t quite start to vibe. That’s the advantage of being locked in a car alone with your music: At a certain point, you have no choice but to appreciate what you’re being forced to hear. This was one of the albums that I understood much more on my second listen.


“Black Cow” — Wow, this is NOT what I thought Steely Dan was. It grooves, though!

“Aja” Chinese music always sets me free. I was confused as to whether or not “Aja” was a lady or the continent, so I looked it up, and it turns out it’s supposed to be intentionally vague. VERY CLEVER, STEELY DAN, VERY CLEVER OF YOU.

“Peg” — OKAY I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, but this song is heavily sampled on De La Soul’s “Eye Know,” which is one of my new favorite songs and is featured on #103, Three Feet High and Rising. I was so excited! This song is, of course, a jam in its own right.

“Home At Last” — This is where I started to vibe.

“I Got The News” — This is just straight freeform jazz. You know, when I remind myself that this is a jazz album and not a rock album, I kind of love it. What a weird thing to enter the mainstream!

“Josie” — Definitely the second-best song about a “Josie” ever.


“Deacon Blues” I cried when I wrote this song. Ugh.


No. I think Steely Dan might be full of it, but they belong here, those jazzy bastards.

Review #62: Appetite for Destruction, Guns N Roses

Review #64: Stankonia, Outkast