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Album Review | Tegan & Sara, Heartthrob

Indie rock sisters Tegan & Sara released “Heartthrob” in late January. I’m a little late to the game, having just received the album as a Valentine’s present last week. 


I’ve been a fan of the Quin sisters since first hearing The Con in 2007. For a while, my musical life was consumed by their first few albums and even more so when Sainthood came out. Songs like “Nineteen,” and “Floorplan” are still among my favorites-- simple melodies, the girls’ charismatic vocals and slightly poetic lyrics that aren’t heard too often.


That brings me to now: Heartthrob. 


I am a closet-pop music lover. To me, almost nothing is better than jamming out to Ke$ha on a Friday night. When I heard producer Greg Kurstin (Ke$ha, Kelly Clarkson) was working on the album, I was excited more of a pop sound from the duo.


As a Tegan & Sara fan, this album pulls at my heartstrings. The synthpop in the album is catchy. I’ve had it stuck in my head for days since first putting it in my car.


But that’s it. I can’t listen to the songs without hating what they’ve become.


They created a Top 40, radio ready album full of the girls’ standard heartache lyrics. “Goodbye, Goodbye” is repetitive.  Sara sings “I can't live with/All these things I would say/I can't live with/All these things that I say” as the bridge. The chorus is just the title, “Goodbye, Goodbye.” Okay, I get it. Goodbye to your lover. Compare this to artists like A Fine Frenzy who has a similar lyric “goodbye my almost lover…” which says more than just “see you later” like Tegan & Sara.


As the tracks move on, the lyrics don’t get much better even if the songs do. “How Come You Don’t Want Me” is a song everyone can relate to. It speaks of a fling between two young folks, with the latter not wishing to see or talk to the former anymore. I’ve been in that situation, just like everyone else has. It’s universal. It’s a pop tune.


Even as I continue to dance alone in my apartment to the album, which is up to about 20 plays on my iTunes, I can’t get past what the duo used to be.


On one of my favorite songs, “Floorplan,” Tegan sings “I want to draw you a floorplan/Of my head and heart/I want to give directions/Helpful hints.” She wants her lover to figure her out, without just saying it. This classic Tegan and Sara song has the quality that Heartthrob just doesn’t bring: acoustic guitar, light drums and bass you can actually hear.


I think that’s why I’m having a hard time with Heartthrob.  It’s meant to be radio ready and it is a perfectly written pop album. At the very least, Tegan & Sara have written lyrics more worthy than most pop songs out there now- which is a step in the right direction for the younger generation listening.


For any Tegan & Sara fan, this is a big change from the acoustic, indie rock albums of their past. It is a step in the right direction, though. Radio tunes are what makes the most money. 


I can’t complain too much about it. I love the album and I love Tegan and Sara. I guess it’ll do for now.

Director of Digital | Radio Milwaukee