In their time, the musical world of Canada have given us a lot to love. In the last year alone we’ve had a farewell tour for post-hardcore juggernauts Alexisonfire, a resoundingly praised record from Grimes, and the return of Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
Unfortunately, in 2013 we cannot add ‘top notch release from Tegan and Sara’ to that list.
Tegan and Sara first rose to prominence in Australia with their cult sensation The Con, featuring single Back in Your Head, which charted in Australia’s musical bible – The triple j Hottest 100.
They’ve kind of disappeared since then, albeit releasing another record, to mixed response.
That is of course, until their seventh release Heartthrob was announced, with lead single Closer.
Closer is, as any lead single needs to be, blatantly radio-friendly. It has soaring synth melodies, the trademark Tegan and Sara two-part harmonies, and is painfully safe. It’s another predictable love song that has done its job, having been picked up by a large number of commercial radio stations internationally.
In my books, it’s okay to have one or two of these tracks on a record – you’ve got to make yourself commercially viable somehow.
It’s just when they move into the second track Goodbye Goodbye that I start to worry for the future of this record. When the second track sounds like a remix of the first, you know that you’re in trouble. The synth lines feel unimaginative and the vocal melody falls into a similar vein, to the point that you can predict the staccato of certain words on the first listen to the song.
The structure of the tracks feels like we’re being taken back to the 80s. Most of the songs follow the same progression – a synth-drenched introduction followed by the classic verse-chorus-verse-chorus until a quiet, percussive bridge followed by one more belted-out chorus. On tracks like I Was a Fool and Drove Me Wild, it begins to feel a little formulaic, considering the vocal melodies on both tracks follow the same path and even accentuate the same points.
By the time we hit tracks like Couldn’t Be Your Friend, we’re beginning to get tired of the break-up songs. The lyrics begin to drag, feeling as if two teenagers in high school wrote them, sitting in English class. Sure, at the time they would have felt edgy, but to the outsider they just seem melodramatic and unimaginative.
Fortunately, it’s not a love song and is a sign of the variety we once considered commonplace from Tegan and Sara.
Love They Say is the first sign of a guitar and attempts to push aside the synth-pop feel of this record, which could quite easily be played alongside other pop artists like Rhianna.
Tegan and Sara once had the indie-pop world at their feet. But with artists like Chairlift and Grimes showcasing just how original indie-pop can be, in the last twelve months, the twins feel more irrelevant than ever before.
I was pretty excited to get the opportunity to review this, only to be disappointed with the overall record. Sure, Closer is a nice single, but the album needs more to solidify its place in my record collection.
Hopefully this is just an anomaly in Tegan and Sara’s career, and album number eight will be a return to form.