Tegan and Sara, ‘Heartthrob’ – Album Review
Beneath all the fizzy synths and sugarcoated hooks in a typical Tegan and Sara song are some serious observations about modern love. On their seventh album, ‘Heartthrob,’ the Canadian twins go through all the ups and downs of love just as you’d expect any levelheaded person to: with self-doubt, some hurt, some anger and a whole mess of insecurity and neuroses.
You just have to dig a little to get there. ‘Heartthrob’ is the Quin sibs’ most polished album, a shiny pop record that borrows as much from ‘80s New Wave giants as it does from ‘10s Top 40 radio. Producers Greg Kurstin (Kelly Clarkson, Ke$ha, Pink) and Mike Elizondo (Fiona Apple, Eminem, Maroon 5) pile on the sturdy beats as Tegan and Sara supply the fragile introspection.
A wave of beeping, burping synths rushes over the opening ‘Closer’ like they’re hoping to meet Robyn at the other end. Or at least someone they can have sex with. “All you think of lately is getting underneath me / All I dream of lately is how to get you underneath me,” Tegan and Sara sing. “I’m the type who will get oh-so critical / So let’s make things physical.”
It doesn’t stop there. When Tegan and Sara aren’t hooking up (‘Drove Me Wild,’ ‘Shock to Your System’), they’re lamenting the decisions that made them fall too deep (‘I Was a Fool,’ ‘Now I’m All Messed Up’). But through it all, the huge, sticky hooks remain buoyant – they’re the biggest of the duo’s decade-plus career. Even the ballads manage to slip under your skin this time.
But all of these glossy hooks come at a price. Kurstin and Elizondo tailor few of the songs to Tegan and Sara’s indie-pop pedigree. Their chugging Top 40 beats would not sound out of place backing almost any of the artists they usually work with. Only a handful of ‘Heartthrob’’s songs carve out an identity the way the best songs on 2009’s ‘Sainthood’ did. Still, this is top-shelf pop music about sex and all the messy, sticky feelings that go with it. Who can’t get behind, or underneath, that?