Ich bin halt dieses Jahr auf dem Popsternchentrip.
(Volker zu "Electra Heart" von Marina And The Diamonds)
Electronic drums, luxurious keyboards, and other digital effects fluff up Heartthrob’s catchiest moments—lead single “Closer,” squiggly indie-rocker “Goodbye, Goodbye,” and the Fleetwood Mac-esque “I’m Not Your Hero”—and shroud the Quins’ vocals with a synthetic sheen. In fact, Heartthrob has an unapologetically nostalgic glow: “I Was A Fool” resembles a big-hair-era Heart power ballad, while the piano-driven, R&B slow jam “Now I’m All Messed Up” sounds like Prince’s “Purple Rain” by way of The Weeknd, and the strident “Drove Me Wild” sasses like Stevie Nicks’ “Stand Back.”
At times, Heartthrob can feel a bit too polished because of such manicured instrumentation. But overall, Tegan And Sara make the album work, mainly because their songwriting is more sophisticated. Eschewing straightforward introspection, the pair instead tackles broader topics on the love continuum. “How Come You Don’t Want Me” is a harrowing song written from the perspective of someone not taking rejection well; “Now I’m All Messed Up” details the crushing moment when a relationship crumbles; and “Goodbye, Goodbye” is about being strong (and clear-headed) enough to let go of past emotional baggage. There’s even room for happy endings in the vulnerable love song “Love They Say” and the first-blush-of-romance fizz of “Closer.” (“I won’t treat you like you’re oh so typical.”) In the end, in spite of the fancier veneer, Tegan And Sara remain honest chroniclers of romantic minutiae.
One of the more pleasant musical makeovers in recent years, Tegan and Sara’s seventh album Heartthrob finds the adored indie duo taking an unrepentant, full-blown swing at becoming Top 40 pop stars. They’ve glammed up their anti-image with makeup and hair gel and chic duds, and they’ve hired a troika of platinum producers to remodel the T&S twin-guitar sound into a bright and bubbly, synth-poppy machine. Somewhere, some silly bird is crying, “Sellout!” But why gripe when the finished product feels so right?
Tegan and Sara has never been a hook-deprived unit (I’ve been singing their single “Hell” for three years now after hearing it just once), and getting showered with the radio radiance of first track/single “Closer” feels less like a revelation and more like the inevitable. Their hopeful little hearts are still getting quashed underneath all those skyscraper choruses and 4/4 beats. They’re still relatable, messed-up fools wondering where it all went wrong.
Unlike recent efforts by Yeasayer and anything related to Animal Collective, which bash the proverbial slate clean and test one’s faith and allegiance, it’s nice to hear a band branch out by building on something instead of tearing it down. These twin-sibling lesbians deserve all the industry kudos they can get.