Wednesday, October 28th 2009
Reviews: Tegan And Sara
The only gripes I’ve ever had with Tegan And Sara came from their production techniques. The indie twins’ music may be wildly different than most of that of other bands covered here, but they really are great songwriters. 2007′s The Con was indeed everything that all the hype said it was.
Still, the best versions of a lot of the best songs from that album came from acoustic sessions where the girls sat down with just acoustic guitars, far away from casio keyboards and drum machines.
A glitchy synth hook opens the duo’s newest album Sainthood as Sara tersely asks, ‘Would you take a / straight and narrow / critical look at me?’ I’d rather not harp on something that may just be a matter of personal preference, but the electronic elements in Arrow just aren’t necessary for the song to be appreciated. The best part of the song comes when the girls ditch the synthetic noises and sing the catchy chorus over clean guitars.
Night Watch and Alligator drift into this territory as well, though not quite as far. Both are inspired, yet I can’t help but imagine far superior acoustic versions yet to be recorded.
Fortunately, this complaint doesn’t apply to any other songs on Sainthood to any great extent. Some feature more than a fair share of electronic garnish, but in almost every case it either stays in the backseat, or weaves tastefully around the stars of the show, which are the blended vocal melodies, bubbly rhythms, and original chord progressions. Lead single Hell is a perfect example:
On Directing and Red Belt complement each other well with pretty poetry, but the sum is a relatively unremarkable five minutes. They’re not bad at all; There’s certainly no need to reach for the skip button as your mind drifts elsewhere, away from the music. But nonchalance isn’t much of a compliment.
The Cure follows in stark contrast, perhaps the best song on the album. I’m not sure if the opening riff was a happy accident, or whether it came before the song name or titular lyric or what, but it’s almost hard not to expect Robert Smith before Tegan’s vocals come in. Driven by guitars over a simple beat, the duo shines in this classically crafted pop song that climaxes about halfway through in a trademark, hyper-rhymey patterned bridge, with Sara singing bright backups on alternating lines.
Northshore is another highlight, a power chord pop punk ballad that at first seems dismissible and gimmicky, a two minute burst of fun in a sea of emotional soul studies, but the song is as pure at heart as anything else on Sainthood, and thus remains listenable after several rotations.
The second most upbeat track, The Ocean, is even more outstanding, led by Tegan. Once again, it’s the song’s purity that makes it such a delight, stripped down to just the essential parts with no distracting digital frills. Sara’s Sentimental Tune follows, one of her best tracks, for the same reasons.
Ultimately, Sainthood is not likely to be fawned over quite as much as The Con was. That’s not exactly a travesty, but Sainthood definitely deserves a great deal of credit, and reinforces Tegan And Sara’s rightful place in a class above the sorry looking mess of dimestore singer-songwriter types competing for blogjobs these days.