Wild, Obsessive, Lustful Love: Inside Tegan and Sara's New Heartthrob
"I recognize that this album is different, even a 'departure,' as some journalists are calling it, but I think we've done it without compromising or undermining our integrity and quirkiness," says Sara Quin. "I want to believe that it's still Tegan and Sara while being something completely unexpected."
Photo by Lindsey Byrnes
Tegan and Sara play the Beacon Theatre tonight and tomorrow night at 8 p.m.; tickets are $39.50-$75.
Sara's talking about Heartthrob--the seventh album she's made with her identical twin, Tegan, since 1999; their musical partnership stretches back to the mid-'90s, when as teens they started writing together in their native Calgary, Alberta.
Now 32, the pair has been steadily pushing the indie, guitar-centric folk-pop constructs they established early on toward a more electro-dance-y realm, and the new album (produced by Greg Kurstin, known for his work with P!nk, Kelly Clarkson, and Ke$ha) goes all-in with big, polished, uptempo synth-pop that clearly aims for mainstream domination but, like Sara says, without sounding like a bullshit sell-out move.
"Our ambitions for this album are large, but at the end of the day, what counts most is that we feel proud of these songs and feel they add a whole new depth to the body of work we've already got," she says. "We forced ourselves to rewrite choruses or change keys and tempo just for the heck of it. Going in with songs that already felt super ambitious and big meant really pushing them to the edge in the studio."
Heartthrob mainly concerns itself with love -- love that starts out obsessive, wild and lustful, but inevitably deteriorates over time through self-doubt, screw-ups, or simply boredom -- and its 10 songs are neon-hued even when the pain is acute. "Now you wanna cry/Call me a cheater/Left you to die/Though I did neither/Thought that it would/That it would be best for me," the pair sings on "I Couldn't Be Your Friend" amid the kind of sunburst synths and crisp mechanized beats that could probably even get a jaded, middle-aged dude jumping around the room singing into a hairbrush. "Sick inside, wondering where you're leaving your makeup...sick inside wondering whose life you're making worthwhile," the duo harmonizes in the midtempo-but-shiny "Now I'm All Messed Up"; over twinkling synth burbles and skittering drums they vacillate between "go if you want" and "please stay" to underscore the lovelorn confusion.