Album Review: Tegan and Sara - 'Heartthrob'

27 January 2013 | 9:34 am | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

The indie-pop twins ditch the guitars for synths to create an instantly catchy electro-pop record.

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It's been over three years since the release of 'Sainthood', Tegan and Sara's sixth album. Flash forward to 2013 and album #7 sees the Canadian indie-pop duo trade in their guitars and angsty lyricism and launch headfirst into a sea of dancey synths, drum machines and catchy electro hooks, a move which both hits and misses for different reasons, and could likely prove the most divisive record amongst the Quinn sisters' fanbase.

Album openers 'Closer' and 'Goodbye, Goodbye' waste no time jumping into the deep end, immediately marking themselves with a combination of vintage synths a la Alphaville, and polished, glittery production that gives the impression these songs could very easily slot into mainstream radio play – the latter's chorus feels reminiscent of a Katy Perry single.

The upbeat nature of the first two songs is something that carries on across the album for the most part, most notably fifth track 'Drove Me Wild' - arguably the album's most infectious toe-tapper. That said, much of the album still carries the slow indie-balladry of the duo's back catalogue – tracks 'I Was a Fool' and 'How Come You Don't Want Me' retain the tortured aesthetics that the sisters are known for; and even some of the more dancier tracks feature themes of unrequited love, failed relationships and broken hearts.

However, lyrically, the album feels altogether weaker than previous Tegan and Sara records – potentially an unfortunate side-effect of the added emphasis on the catchy, radio-friendly dance-pop. At best, lyricism feels bland; at worst, cringeworthy (see “Love They Say”'s a touch too sugary reminder that “there's nothing love can't do”).

Ultimately, though, it's apparent from the get-go that the focus isn't on expert wordsmithery, and the simple, catchy choruses and hooks are the album's bread and butter. It's almost as though the sisters Quinn have made a conscious effort to make a record that feels significantly less serious than previous efforts, and subsequently the melodramatics and cliches on 'Heartthrob' can largely be forgiven.

Though arguably indie-pop royalty, 'Heartthrob' feels like it could see Tegan and Sara be thrust firmly into mainstream spotlight. With near-sickeningly sweet production and enough catchy hooks to stay memorable, the Quinn sisters have crafted a pretty damn good slice of modern synth-pop that, in doing away with some of the pretension of earlier works – albeit with lyricism seemingly suffering and feeling unimaginative as a result – delivers their most accessible, fun record to date.

1. Closer

2. Goodbye, Goodbye

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3. I Was a Fool

4. I'm Not Your Hero

5. Drove Me Wild

6. How Come You Don't Want Me

7. I Couldn't Be Your Friend

8. Love They Say

9. Now I'm All Messed Up

10. Shock to Your System