Sunday, February 3, 2013

Album Review: Heartthrob by Tegan and Sara

The sound of the 1980s is here to stay, and nothing announces its reign quite like Tegan and Sara's Heartthrob. While the art direction can trick us into believing it's just a continuation of Sainthood, the sound is far from it. Just like Taylor Swift taking the last steps toward pop last year, and fun. becoming radio-marketable, Tegan and Sara have made an album that has moved them from indie rock to indie pop (which is much more salable to the masses).

Heartthrob opens with "Closer," the incredibly poppy lead single that was actually played on some radio stations months ago. "Closer" serves as a pretty accurate preview of the album, with a much more dance-like feel than any of Tegan and Sara's earlier work. "Goodbye, Goodbye" is emotionally much closer to traditional Tegan and Sara, but the melancholy lyrics are juxtaposed by incredibly upbeat instrumentals and synths that wouldn't need remixed to be played in a club.

One of the top tracks on this album is "I Was a Fool," which is sure to be another single given time. Although it's a different sound for Tegan and Sara, it reminds us of the raw emotion these girls can convey, and uses call and answer vocals that are part of their traditional sound (as in "Call It Off," amongst others). The keys interwoven with the synths serve to be just as emotional as the lead vocals, giving every aspect of this song the kind of care and intricacy that a good track needs.

"I'm Not Your Hero" features some of the best lyrics of the album, such as: "I'm not their hero/But that doesn't mean that I wasn't brave." It begins much like their usual work, but moves into an 80s power ballad at the chorus.

The most upbeat, and possibly one of the best tunes on this album is "Drove Me Wild." "Drove Me Wild" brings the sensuality of the album to another level with lines like: "When I envision you, I think of your sheets//tangled up beneath me."

"How Come You Don't Want Me" and "I Couldn't Be Your Friend" are two incredibly 80s tracks, with electronic drums, beats, and echo effects. These songs convey the emotional volatility the girls are known for, but with a very different sound than the usual. "Love They Say" is far less poppy, and contains an almost tear-jerking level of sentimentality. It has a much more stripped-down sound than the rest of the album, and relies primarily on the vocals and the powerful lyrics (You don't need to wonder if love will make us stronger//there's nothing love can't do). The calmer sound carries over to the introduction of "Now I'm All Messed Up," which begins with the poignant line: "Stay//You'll leave me in the morning anyway." "Now I'm All Messed Up" builds to a more heavy sound, and evokes the emotions felt by someone who is fairly torn in a relationship, between how much they love someone and how much the person is hurting them. The most gorgeous part of the song is when the chorus of "go, go, go if you want//I can't stop you" is interrupted by a call of "Please stay" between each line, expressing the sentiment that the narrator seems to be trying to hard to deny throughout the first half of the song.

The closer for the album is "Shock to Your System," which seems to be a fairly even mix of the Sainthood sound and the new Heartthrob sound. It's not the most powerful song on the album, but it works as a wrap-up.

Heartthrob has more of a common theme than previous Tegan and Sara albums, each song outlining the virtues and downfalls of love and relationships, and each track dripping with passion. The primary negative is that there is less of the "curled up in the corner" sound that one can expect from certain earlier works. Heartthrob has a new kind of strength of character, even in the saddest songs. It's also wonderful the way the songs range from singing the praises of love in "Love They Say" to describing the sickening feeling one gets when they imagine where their lover is now in "Now I'm All Messed Up." This album is far more sensual and even sexual than one would typically expect from this duo, but it's never tacky. While I personally don't enjoy it as much as The Con, the artistry is undeniable, and the lyrics have reached a new level of maturity and elegance.

Tegan and Sara are a Canadian indie rock duo.

Heartthrob can be purchased here for $5.

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