Tegan and Sara Quin are twin sisters from Calgary that decided to start their career in music in 1995. Their band is known as ‘Tegan and Sara’, and as of now, it was mainly an indie rock band that, as such, appealed to a small niche of public. Despite being featured in many TV shows over the years – Grey’s Anatomy, Veronica Mars, The L Word or Vampire Diaries, among others – and doing collaborations with mainstream artists like Tiesto, they had never really tried to break the mainstream market, perhaps to be true to their indie fan-base. That is until now, because their new album ‘Heartthrob’ combines the soul and lyrics of the truest Tegan and Sara but with an 80’s-influenced electronic production and addicting hooks, obtaining incredible results.
The lyrical content of the album gyrates around the concept of love, yet from a melancholic, not always happy perspective, yet the melodies help not to make it a heartbreak album. ‘Closer’ is the track that opens the album and also the chosen first single, and it’s no surprise because even though it is not the best track in the album, it’s certainly the most instant. ‘Goodbye, Goodbye’ is a more frantic, feisty track that rises up the tension after ‘Closer’, with lyrics like “goodbye, I don’t wanna feel the need to see your face”.
‘I Was A Fool’ is probably the best track of the album. The piano at the very beginning sets the mood for the song and makes it impossible to stop listening. The chorus is pure brilliance, so are the next lyrics that go with it: “If you’re worried that I might have changed, left behind all of my foolish ways/you best be looking for somebody else/without a foolish heart”. But what makes it better is that it’s immediately followed by ‘I’m Not Your Hero’, and at this point it feels like either Tegan and Sara have crammed all the good tracks right at the beginning, or this could really be an incredible album. ‘I’m Not Your Hero’ works a lot on the same principle as ‘I Was A Fool’: incredible chorus, great harmonisation from the Quin sisters and the best use of ooh-oohs in a pop song in a while.
‘Drove Me Wild’ is a lot similar to ‘Closer’: it gives a breather from the moodiness of the previous tracks with lighter lyrics and a more upbeat melody. It makes the contrast with ‘How Come You Don’t Want Me’ even bigger, because the last is a desperate plea with again, great backing vocals from Sara. ‘I Couldn’t Be Your Friend’ is a song that one could easily imagine Katy Perry sing. It’s less heavy on the electronic arrangement and a bit more reliant on electric guitars, with a very strong chorus.
‘Love They Say’ is sweet and simple, with acoustic guitars leading the melody along with real drums. It sounds very 90’s Natalie Imbruglia or even The Corrs and again the chorus is on point. ‘Now I’m All Messed Up’ is the most desperate and heart breaking song in the album that despites the inner turmoil in such a perfect way: “go/(please, stay)/go/(please, stay)/go if you want/I can’t stop you”. It has great synths but it’s Sara’s ad-libs what makes the difference in this song, making the chorus incredibly powerful. ‘Shock To Your System’ is also a shock to the album’s melodic theme. It’s darker than any other song, as if it didn’t really belong with the others, but it still works as a closing track.
In a world where artists release 17-track albums and then re-release those albums to add yet new tracks, ‘Heartthrob’ keeps it short and sweet. There is a deluxe edition with two more songs: ‘Guilty As Charged’ and ‘I Run Empty’; yet the album works at its purest as a 10-track one. It’s the best album of 2013 so far and a strong contender for future releases.
‘Heartthrob’ is a really interesting album filled with pure pop tunes from a band not necessarily pop itself, but that has managed the incredible feat of creating something with universal appeal without sacrificing their spirit and lyrical talent and without falling into a generic dance sound spiral that is long overdue. If this is Tegan and Sara when they try their hand at pop, may this not be their only attempt.
This article was first posted on February 3, 2013