Our Thoughts On The New Tegan And Sara CD, "Heartthrob"!

When it was announced, ever so discreetly, last year that Tegan and Sara had signed directly to Warner Bros., it was one of those "WTF!" moments where you wonder who at the WB, much less within the T&S camp, thought that was even remotely a good idea.

After all, Tegan and Sara, the identical (as near as I can tell) twins from Canada who scored a minor hit with "Walking With The Ghost" eight years ago and have since released four well-received studio albums featuring only slight variations on the idiosyncratic alt pop template upon which the duo has build a sizeable cult audience.

The only way their new union with a big, bad major label could work is if the powers-that-be at "The Dub" are looking for a tax write-off.  If nothing else, Tegan and Sara will get to cut an album in a mammoth dinosaur of a recording studio and ride in a big, fancy tour bus on the label’s dime for awhile.

The only other way inking a deal with Warner Bros. could be beneficial is if Tegan and/or Sara have finally decided that it is finally time to take a stab at the brass ring by making a blatant stab at commercial/mainstream success.

Of course, the minute I saw the fashion-conscious cover and title of their new WB album, Heartthrob, my heart broke a little because I knew that both options would eventually come to be true, but that it was obvious Tegan and Sara had bigger things in mind than writing “Walking With A Ghost, Pt. 2”.

A quick glance at the credits reveals the duo worked with Greg Kurstin (best known for his work with Pink and Kelly Clarkson), Mike Elizondo (who has produced Maroon 5 and written tracks for Eminem and Carrie Underwood), and Rob Cavallo (the provider of the sonic sauce that makes a little band like Green Day sound like GREEN DAY).

So with a sense of dread, I dove into the new record and, after spending a few weeks with it, I can safely say that Tegan and Sara’s “blatant pop attempt”, for lack of a better term, is a complete success.

I mean, if their goal is to completely alienate their core audience while, at the same time, making music that teenage sheep will still find too weird for their tastes, the duo have succeeded on every level.

Sure, they sound pleasant enough, but I can’t hear past all of the audio bells and whistles to hear if the songs themselves are any good.  Of course, that’s exactly how guys like Max Martin and Dr. Luke stay in business; they load their otherwise generic-sounding songs with all the latest production flourishes to create something that SOUNDS audibly amazing despite having as much substance as a wad of cotton candy.

The charm of working with Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie) on 2007’s The Con and 2009’s Sainthood was that his unobtrusive production was entirely focused on serving the song, not stomping all over it.  As a result, Sainthood remains the one album that most accurately captures the essence of Tegan and Sara.

Sadly, Heartthrob merely captures their ambition to be something bigger than what they are, but at the potential expense of their souls.  I do not say this out of disdain for the duo’s aspirations.  In a perfect world, their songs would be all over the radio and teenage girls would emulate them instead of Taylor Swift and Katy Perry.  This album won’t push them over the top.  Instead, it will take its rightful place as an ego-based deviation in an otherwise admirable discography.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

1 comment:

  1. It's so ironic that you mention Katy Perry as the anti-T&S ... and now they are touring with her. I saw them in concert last year, and I do think they still have a genuine love for their fans from the last decade, but from their merch-and-PR-heavy Facebook page to hipsters buying out their shows in days flat, it does seem like their devoted audience is falling by the wayside. You also have to wonder whether the shape-shifting that has been the hallmark of every fresh album from them will fall by the wayside now that the pop machine will demand more of the same.