Posts tagged: Tegan and Sara

Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob

By , February 4, 2013 12:00 pm

heartthrob

Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob

Warner Bros. 2013

Rating: 7/10

At the heart of it all – the cheesy, shimmery synths, dolled up with a glorious major-label sheen, the dance-floor bass wallops, the nostalgic grooves that call to mind bad movies and worse outfits – Heartthrob is still the same old Tegan and Sara fans have always known. The touchstones are now more Breakfast Club and Madonna than power chords and Metric, the production slicker, shinier, the cover a colorful, stylized wallpaper than an ominous tome or a blood-red rose, yet there they are on opener “Closer,” still dreaming of “how to get you underneath me.” There’s no way around it: Heartthrob finds Tegan and Sara finally bowing down at the altar of pop that they had been paying occasional respects to ever since So Jealous, yet those hooky melodies and incandescent synths only serve to cleverly disguise those exposed emotions, sharp lyrics and distinct, powerful voices. Heartthrob still bites as incisively, forgives as breathlessly as the Tegan and Sara of old, and that’s a wonderful realization after the culture shock of hearing the twins translated through producer Greg Kurstin’s (the Bird and the Bee) arena-geared sound. The drums here punch along fearlessly, robotically, while the synths paint things in day-glo colors and with fluorescent clarity, and signposts generally not associated with the sisters’ punk reputation – Pink, Robyn, Cyndi Lauper, et. al. – show up with increasing regularity. Yet where this carefully manicured sound can sometimes come off as prepackaged, Tegan and Sara present an interesting dichotomy between the glossy production Kurstin serves up and the strong emotional content the duo’s lyrics and vocal performances reveal. It makes Heartthrob a fine example of what pop music can accomplish when one doesn’t lose sight of the feelings that led to it.

Not to say that Kurstin’s work here is mere window dressing for Tegan and Sara’s typically adroit observations. “Drove Me Wild” is a vintage new-wave hit that very well may be the finest pop song of 2013, the kind of unassuming hook that burrows around and refuses to leave your head, “Back In Your Head” with those fantastically sleazy synths replacing that insistent keyboard line. “I Couldn’t Be Your Friend” pairs a herky-jerky rhythm with a straightforward chorus as plain and simple in its pop ambitions as the venomous lyrics that propel it angrily forward. The best songs are those that combine Kurstin’s direct, anthemic style with Tegan and Sara’s unhinged emotion and insistent vocal melodies, be in it the manic, thrilling chorus of “Closer” or the defiant, bleak synth-pop kiss-off “Shock to Your System,” which closes out Heartthrob in suitably dramatic fashion. Even when the album crosses the line from glamorous to tawdry, as on the big-hair-and-leg-warmers nightmare of “I Was A Fool,” Tegan and Sara never sound like they are running through the motions. Heartthrob doesn’t intend to shack up with the electro-pop fad for a quick cash-in, but instead transforms their sound wholesale into something that sounds like a natural evolution.

Occasionally, the bright lights and mammoth, sparkling sounds detract from the flow of the record, a ceaseless dance party broken up only by tempo shifts. It’s a blueprint that comes off as more than a little uniform, especially in regards to some of the band’s loopier records (2007’s The Con comes to mind). Indeed, Heartthrob nears exhaustion by the time the one-two depressive punch of “Now I’m All Messed Up” and “Shock to Your System” close things up, a regretful hangover to a torrid night of affairs. Yet songs as pristinely produced and playfully constructed as “Now I’m All Messed Up” and “I’m Not A Hero” are not usually this immediate, this visceral; painfully detailed recreations of romantic entanglements gone right and wrong, often as quick one way as the other. For all its narrow musical sensibilities, Heartthrob never marginalizes its heart. “I’ve never walked a party line / doesn’t mean that I was never afraid / I’m not your hero / but that doesn’t mean we’re not one in the same,” the sisters sing, and it’s as telling a line about their musical ethos as it is a satisfying statement about their own identities. As crushing as some of these songs are, Heartthrob never lets you feel the weight, but prefers to revel in emotions good or bad, most often while sweating everything out under a crystalline disco ball. You can’t ask much more from pop music than that.




Heartthrob, the highly anticipated follow-up to Sainthood, gives us Tegan and Sara in their superhero tights and capes, ready to conquer the pop universe, and the new outfits suit them just as well as their old-school jeans and T-shirts.
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Tegan and Sara – Sainthood

By , October 27, 2009 12:00 pm

sainthood

Tegan and Sara – Sainthood

Sire 2009

Rating: 7/10

With 2007’s deceptively layered breakout record The Con, Tegan and Sara Quin, along with uber-indie producer Chris Walla, reveled in the darker recesses of indie pop, merging unconventional song structures and atypically diverse instrumentation with the kind of incisive, realistic lovelorn tales the two long ago perfected. Few would have expected the record to chart as well as it did, and it’s probably no coincidence that this, their sixth record, capitalizes on this. It’s perhaps the band’s most accessible to date, but these identical lesbian twins are hardly the likeliest candidates to be mainstream sellouts. Rather, Sainthood is a full-bodied, meticulously crafted rock record, one that stands firmly on its bedrock foundation of guitar, drums, and bass and lets the duo’s way with words and distinctive personalities shape the album into yet another uniquely Tegan and Sara album.

The two have always grounded their work in an essentially rock/pop mix, but never as blatantly as on Sainthood. Forgoing the quirky sonic soundscapes and expanded textures that characterized The Con, Walla beefs up the guitars and turns the amps up to 11, resulting in a thoroughly muscular record. From the jagged chords that open “Arrow” to the shiny keyboards and charging drum rhythm on closer “Someday,” Walla and the twins pulls no punches, concocting a potent blend of post-punk and polished pop-rock that rarely lets off the gas pedal. It’s perhaps Tegan and Sara’s most direct record to date, one that shines the spotlight squarely on what has always been the two’s strongest asset: their lyrics.

Tegan continues to play the role of designated hitmaker, penning catchy gems like propulsive first single “Hell” and the chiming alternative gem “The Cure.” Her specialty is striking a Cyndi Lauper-like balance between straightforward pop structures and hooks that refuse to let go with lyrics like “screaming like no one might / call the cops and arrest you this time” or the authentic verisimilitude of want-you-back anthem “The Ocean.” Sara, on the other hand, matches her oddball voice with suitably ambiguous lyrics and some of the more musically interesting tracks on the record. The funky Canadian (read: white) soul of “Alligator” finds her complaining of “alligator tears cried over you” and warns “run around on me / die without,” while the surprisingly poppy “Red Belt” admonishes one to “slow it down, you have a tendency to rush back into your past / slow it down, you transfer all your weight and disappear / kneel, to condition all the feelings that you feel.” For all their growth as lyricists and songwriters, Tegan and Sara repeatedly prove on Sainthood that not only do they work best when focusing on their everyday descriptions of love and broken relationships, but also when they continue their technique of writing songs separately. Each song here has a distinct Tegan or Sara identity, giving the album a well-thought-out sense of flow; in contrast, the one track written together, “Paperback Head,” never really develops a discernible theme and comes off like one of the few half-baked efforts here.

On first listen Sainthood might even sound a bit bland to first-time listeners, as the similar production causes a few songs to blend together into generic punk-influenced alternative, particularly in the second half. But that comes off more as Walla’s directive than the sisters’, particularly when you consider how tightly wound the songwriting here is and how effectively the band delivers hook after delicious hook on top of consistently engaging lyrics. It’s there on the stutter-step backbeat of “Don’t Rush,” it’s there on the snarling faux-punk anthem “Northshore,” and it’s there in their enviable ability to make the listener care about their ubiquitous girl problems and obsessions. And really, who can’t relate to girl troubles?

Tegan and Sara – “Hell”




Tegan and Sara's sixth studio album - Sainthood - addresses secular themes of devotion, delusion, and exemplary behavior in the pursuit of love andrelationships. Inspired by emotional longing and the quiet actions we hope may be noticed by the objects of our affection, Sainthood is about obsession with romantic ideals.
In the service of relationships we practice being perfect. We practice our sainthood in the hope that we will be rewarded with adoration. As we are driven to become anything for someone else, we sometimes become martyrs for our cause.
Love, like faith, can never be held in an individual's hands. But the story of a great love affair - especially one that is unrequited or has ended too soon - can be woven like scripture or a bedtime story. And so the themes of Sainthood are tied together by this simple title, borrowed, with great respect, from the lyrics of the Leonard Cohen song 'Came So Far For Beauty.'
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