By making their big debut at the notoriously female-dominated Lilith Fair Festival, Canadian twin sisters and musicians Tegan and Sara Quin cornered themselves into the “girl power” indie genre. But with Sainthood, the Quin twins are out to prove they’re capable of more than just tampon rock.
Tegan and Sara
For starters, Sainthood marks the first time the sisters have written music collaboratively — as opposed to composing the songs solo — and the result is the most genuine album of their career. After a long tour for their previous release The Con, they secluded themselves from the outside world, holing up in a random city in Louisiana to write tracks for what would become Sainthood.
Although some of the tracks they composed together didn’t end up on the record, the undertaking indicates the duo’s seriousness in writing music dealing with complex issues like loneliness and yearning. Not only does the collaborative venture mark the band’s most unified album to date, but it’s also its most tragic — the sisters’ raw emotion is exposed by dark, deep-cutting lyrics that go beyond the act’s typical bittersweet break-up ballads.
But this isn’t to say the band has let go of the bubbly, throwback sound that earned it its massive following. On Sainthood, the duo gradually reveals a more mature, nuanced side of itself that should captivate a wider range of listeners.
This departure from the band’s conventional pop persona began with 2007’s The Con, produced by Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla. On that effort, the duo awkwardly experimented with wallowing vocals and intense drum beats that get muddled along with a largely melancholic demeanor. Sainthood, which enlists Walla once again, continues to display an edgier side, but in a more focused, cohesive manner that never forsakes its girl-pop roots.
Perhaps the most appealing element of the record is its maturity. In “Night Watch,” supposedly written about the sisters’ parents’ divorce, the duo vents its frustrations over aggressive electronic beats. With divisive lyrics like, “I need distance from your body,” the twins say goodbye to the teen-pop facade that has been synonymous with their band for so long.
Still, the album is full of tracks inside the band’s lovesick comfort zone — “On Directing” conjures up images of a 10th-grade girl scribbling love letters in her notebook during study hall, with cutesy lyrics like “Go steady with me / I know it turns you off when I get talking like a teen.” The song has an undeniably addictive beat and a message of unrequited love that waxes nostalgic for the poppier tracks of 2004’s So Jealous.
“Paperback Head” is a bitchin’ slice of ’80s disco that’s a dead-ringer for early Madonna. Sara even boasts of “a material girl” in the track’s hook, as if the electric beats and new wave sound weren’t obvious enough. Fans nostalgic for the girl pop of Tegan and Sara circa So Jealous will be instantly love stricken.
With Sainthood, Tegan and Sara compose an emotionally laden album with the self-assurance of indie veterans. Tegan and Sara powerfully end the album with “Someday,” revealing their uncertainty regarding a post-break-up future: “I don’t want to know what you’d do without me / I don’t want to know what I’ll be without you.” The track perfectly concludes the album’s emotionally palpable tone.