Jules Lefevre reviews Tegan and Sara’s latest musical offering
There seems to be only two potential results of a band dramatically changing their sound. One, they are widely criticised, their fans flee and their label drops them. Two, they are widely criticised, their fans flee, but they somehow manage to barrel through and pick up other fans, thereby attaining the rare status of the ‘crossover band’.
On Heartthrob, Canadian duo Tegan and Sara’s seventh studio record, the seismic shift towards bombastic synth pop seems, at first, to place them in the former category. Luckily, their penchant for clever hooks and silky harmonies pulls them through. Enlisting mega producer Greg Kurstin (whose clients include Ke$ha and Kelly Clarkson), they’ve touched up the indie angst and readied it for the dance floor.
Radio friendly tracks like “Closer”, “I’m Not Your Hero” and “Drove Me Wild” gleam with eighties-sounding synths that ride the thumping drum track. Huge, lush and unashamedly pop, the duo land somewhere between the madness of Passion Pit and the coolness of La Roux. Despite lyrics about crushing heartbreak, self-loathing and regret, the songs feel and sound amazingly euphoric. It’s the change from the maudlin to the joyous that asks the question: why cry when you can dance?
However when the album tries to go down tempo, the fun quickly dries up. “How Come You Don’t Want Me” contains a killer hook, but lacks the necessary churn. “Love They Say” works much better, layering up the harmonies well. The song structure rarely varies from that of “Closer”, except on “Now I’m All Messed Up”, where they opt for a glitchy, slow jam.
What anchors every song (and by extension, the whole record) is their overwhelming ability to craft a catchy hook. They are the Taylor Swifts of indie pop, every note expertly placed and timed, ready for the screaming sing-along of the chorus. And when you’re dealing with intense, gut punching emotional baggage, sometimes a massive chorus is just the remedy.
If only every band’s angst was this fun.