Album Review: Tegan & Sara – Heartthrob

Tegan & Sara Heartthrob

The heart can ache in many ways; love, lust, longing, pain, regret. All of which are explored on Tegan and Sara’s aptly titled 7th major release, Heartthrob. Before you even play a note, take a glance at the track list; ‘Now I’m All Messed Up’, ‘I Was a Fool’, ‘How Come You Don’t Want Me?’, and ‘I Couldn’t Be Your Friend’. Honest, no-nonsense titles; an indication of the diary-like content that lies ahead.
Continuing with what Sainthood started in 2009, Heartthrob is heavily rooted in the 80s. This time, the twins have ditched the rock arrangements in favour of synthesized dance pop. Everything sounds light, twinkly, painted with a pink Glamour Shots glow. Even the album art resembles the iconic Girl Talk game. Though the sound may be generations away from say, So Jealous, rest assured that Tegan and Sara haven’t messed with their trademark vocals. Their usual tradeoffs, call and answer, and DNA-matched harmonies are all present.
Closer’, the popular first single, is a happy, lust filled tune, and a bit of an anomaly. That’s because Heartthrob mostly rests in the twins’ realm of expertise; the desperate, hollow, curl up in a ball on the couch depression that they’ve been so good at articulating on past efforts. Despair-drenched lyrics abound, like the refrain “go if you want, I can’t stop you” from ‘Now I’m All Messed Up’. Or “tell me why you couldn’t try, couldn’t try and keep me here.” (‘How Come You Don’t Want Me?’) Other songs, like ‘I Was a Fool’ and ‘Drove Me Wild’ are full of painful hindsight.
Before you jump to conclusions and write Tegan and Sara off as a couple of pathetic emo sad sacks, look a little further. There’s a lot of strength and hope to be found here too. Especially in ‘I’m Not Your Hero’, “Learning all I know now, losing all I did, I never used to feel like I’d be standing so far ahead.” Or ‘How Come You Don’t Want Me?’, “Some day soon, I won’t be the one who waits on you.” And, well, the titles ‘Goodbye, Goodbye’ and ‘I Couldn’t Be Your Friend’ are pretty self-explanatory.
I would never wish pain or unhappiness on either of these girls, but it’s clear that heartbreak is their creative fodder. They’re able to tap into the worst aspects of their relationships without becoming whiny or weak; which is a talent in itself. Out of the ten songs on the album, only two deal openly with love and lust. There’s the aforementioned ‘Closer’, and a sort of mushy romantic ode, ‘Love They Say’. While not a bad song, the latter is arguably the weakest on the album; perhaps because it strays so far from the twins’ familiar angst.
What it all comes down to is this; if you can get through Heartthrob without your heart throbbing at least once, you should a) check your pulse, b) congratulate yourself on living a charmed life, and/or c) be pitied for having never met (and subsequently lost) someone worth your while.


About J2

What happens when you're a wordsy music aficionado who works for NXNE, CMW, HPX, Olio Music Festival, The JUNOs and Polaris Music Prize? You spend all of your free time blogging about it... Follow on Twitter if you're so inclined: @HearPlugged

Posted on January 31, 2013, in Album Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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