Album of the week : Heartthrob - Tegan and Sara

Coming out can be scary (and no, not in that way - the Canadian twin-sister act has long been comfortably open regarding their sexual orientation), but Heartthrob, the sibling duo’s seventh studio album, is most assuredly a game-changing release from a veteran act, and whisper it quietly,  Tegan and Sara Quin are now pop stars

Heartthrob is easily the most pop-oriented, head-bopping, non-stop, catchy-tune-after-catchy-tune, thrill ride the twins have ever produced. For the first time in their careers, these still young sisters decided to compound their songwriting abilities, weaving back and forth the strongest aspects of each other, where previously they had maintained a separated, yet unified, front. There used to be Tegan songs and Sara songs. Ultimately, Heartthrob is the first fully realized Tegan AND Sara album. And it pays off. The album begins with the magnificent ‘Closer’, epitomising in the first few lines, the nexus of the album. When, either Tegan or Sara (who can tell which is which?) begin with “All I wanna get is / a little bit closer / All I wanna know is / Can you come a little closer? / Here comes the breath before we get / a little bit closer / Here comes the rush before we touch / come a little closer”, you know you’re in for a different kind of album that still feels, at its core, like a Tegan and Sara album, but is brimming with newer possibilities

The album continues with ‘Goodbye, Goodbye’, which boasts one of the best choruses around. And by the time you realize that ‘Goodbye, Goodbye’ is actually a horribly sad song, especially with lines like “You never really knew me / never ever / never ever saw me / saw me like they did / You never really loved me / never really / never really loved me / loved me like they did”, you’ll already be pulled in to their ‘80s throwbacks, and endearing harmonies. This is a sad record, but a beautiful record. Clocking in at 36 minutes with a concise 10 songs, there isn’t a single instance where the duo overstays its welcome or repeats its tricks. Every track sounds like it could be a massively successful radio single, and while some pop albums suffer from being too catchy and accessible, ultimately making them boring, Heartthrob benefits from precise communication, and enough varied components to draw you in with each listen

The reflective piano line at the top of ‘I Was a Fool’ is actually a red herring, as the song offers no break in momentum and quickly blooms into a mid-tempo sway. The lyrics are simple but effective, and Tegan delivers each word with purpose. An ode to individuality and the loss that it may inspire, ‘I’m Not Your Hero’ carries an eloquent message

The rest of the album has the same sonic impact and emotional power as it alternates between new wave-influenced rockers (‘Drove Me Wild’) and moody and dramatic midtempo tracks (‘Love They Say’,  ‘I Couldn’t Be Your Friend’, ‘How Come You Don’t Want Me’) that wouldn’t have been out of place on an early Cyndi Lauper record, before finishing with a pair of bleak synth pop heartbreak ballads (‘Now I’m All Messed Up’, ‘Shock to Your System’)

For flaming, deranged drama, however, there’s no topping ‘Now I’m All Messed Up’, a masterpiece of controlled tension that starts slowly with morose observations like, “Why won’t you just comfort me?” before erupting into full-blast melodrama, with tortured voices exclaiming, “Go / Please stay!” in a furious tug-of-war. In less-artful hands, these could be tacky histrionics, but here, Tegan and Sara make them simply gripping. Contradicting the notion that romance has to end in a horror show, the delicate ‘Shock to Your System’ offers tender comfort to the bearer of a lonely heart, saying gently, “You must rely on love once in a while,” despite the overwhelming anguish portrayed so convincingly elsewhere

Liberated from the stylistic baggage of their previous albums, the Quins deliver something close to pure intoxicating emotion, granting themselves the freedom to go anywhere they want next time. Country? Funk? Stay tuned

Buy it here

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