Canadian twin songstresses Tegan and Sara have made one of the most finely produced and accessible pop albums of the year. So Jealous is a rollercoaster of an album; songs hurtle along emotional rails at breakneck speeds. With a stripped down blend of bass, drums and acoustic guitar, the songs are cozy and warm. These are songs about rejection, hope, doubt and uncertainty. Primarily though, this album is about love and relationships, which is exactly the kind of album Tegan and Sara wanted to make.

Music Reviews
Tegan and Sara refuse to be intimidated by the irons. (Courtesy of Vapor Us)

Tegan and Sara Quin, who have played together since they were in high school, have continued their tradition of singing and performing uptempo acoustic pop. Sara Quin said that they sidestepped any political messages with this release. “We haven’t taken a political approach lyrically … but there’s a quirkiness that would attract a 20-something audience,” she said. By keeping relationships as the focus of the album, it is compulsively listenable and endlessly relatable.

Tegan and Sara will showcase their exciting brand of pop music and huge emotional scope at the Magic Bag in Ferndale, tonight at 8 p.m.

Recording this album was different than recording If It Was You, Sara said, because there was a build-up of confidence from touring internationally. The women recorded their own songs in their respective bedrooms, eventually paring down these “bedroom demos” to make So Jealous. Sara describes her move to Vancouver, B.C., as a significant life change that had an influence on her songs. The overall approach in making the album was also different, as they tried to make “more of a band record that wasn’t so focused on vocals … a little bit cohesive and more textured.”

The comparisons to performers like Ani DiFranco are endless, but Sara correctly asserts that the kind of music they are making is different. According to Sara, she and her sister have been compared to “any woman who has touched an acoustic guitar” and they’ve been followed by the assumption that, “If you’re a woman with an acoustic guitar you’re going to be folk.” So Jealous is clearly not folk, and the notion that it could be becomes untenable after listening to the power-pop classic, “I Know I Know I Know.”

Growing up in Canada, Tegan and Sara were exposed to a wide array of music by their young and forward-thinking parents. Led Zeppelin and David Bowie are among their parents’ favorite artists, but according to Sara, The Talking Heads, and more specifically their subtle use of acoustic guitar to underscore other instruments, has had an impact on their approach to songwriting. Songs like “Where Does the Good Go” and “You Wouldn’t Like Me” showcase this style in ways that would make David Byrne proud. Throughout the ’80s, bands like the Pixies, Dinosaur Jr. and Violent Femmes were among the girls’ favorites. These musicians’ styles come through clearly on many tracks, and shows that the diverse musical background of Tegan and Sara has served their songwriting well.

Tegan and Sara have made a fantastic album that belies both their age and time in the business. The album is masterfully produced and challenges the listener in all the right ways. The live shows are cut from the same cloth, with the personality of the girls coming through in ways it cannot on the album. “Seeing us, we’re better live because there’s more personality … we’re better than our record.”

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