Tegan and Sara perfect synth-pop sound on 'Heartthrob'

Sire

By Gregory Hicks, Daily Arts Writer
Published January 29, 2013

The folk-pop duo has officially gone full-blown synth-pop, and such a polished 21st-century music transition rarely occurs.

Heartthrob


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Tegan and Sara
Sire


Tegan and Sara have never been a force to “treat like (they’re) oh so typical.” That said, what doesn’t make Heartthrob typical? What makes this record different than any other indie pop artist trying to make some extra spending money by jumping on the synth-pop bandwagon?

Tegan and Sara know who they are as artists — not exactly a vocal powerhouse, but most certainly a songwriting powerhouse. The duet continues to churn out lyrics that exceed the work of any hit-maker, even for its melodically radio friendly tracks like the album’s lead single, “Closer.” Catchiness is no excuse to sacrifice quality word choice.

It’s not a complete solo effort on their part, however. Recruiting Grammy award-winning producer Greg Kurstin to assist with the album’s production was a well-played decision, given his musical résumé. Artists like Kelly Clarkson and P!nk owe Kurstin for his work in breeding an artist’s original style with a 21st-century sound, and Heartthrob never falls short of that.

Tegan and Sara claim that this seventh studio album is their most personal album to date — strange, considering the reputation synth-pop has for being a tawdry tone. But perhaps synth-pop is a contemptible style for generally having flavorless underlying composition. A heap of intimacy sustains balance with the record’s genre approach, similarly seen from British sensations Ellie Goulding and Florence + the Machine.

Thanks to Morgan Paige and his Canadian Top 40 hit “Body Work,” Tegan and Sara had the opportunity to experiment with EDM prior to their seventh album, followed by their inclusion of “Every Chance We Get We Run” on David Guetta’s Nothing But The Beat 2.0.

Needless to say, Heartthrob’s synthetic characteristics are certainly no coincidence, given the recent DJ collaborations. By no means, however, is this a work of pure electronic exhilaration; the typical indie pop-rock-folk fan base won’t be left exhausted after a full listen.

Best of all to witness is the growth of the twins’ musical career. Generating seven albums is no small feat, especially given the negligible amount of outside help they required. Not only that, but each record becomes more musically relevant than the next, whether it be from increased album sales and better charted singles, or even promotionally getting their work aired on shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “One Tree Hill” and “Vampire Diaries.”

The duet takes no steps back, even on the smaller aspects of the record. The twins went through almost 100 album titles before narrowing it down to five titles — which obviously contained the title Heartthrob.

Perhaps this is just a stylistic fling for the duet, but we’re potentially witnessing an evolution. There isn’t much in the way of pleasing a diehard Sainthood crowd, but some tracks — “I Was a Fool” and “I Couldn’t Be Your Friend” — are more stripped than others. Just don’t go looking for an acoustic “Alligator” on this album.