There are artists that have inspired others to follow them, and the results have been good. Because there was the Rolling Stones, there is Aerosmith, and that’s good. Because there was the Pixies, there was Nirvana, and that’s good. Of course, because there was Nirvana, there have been hundreds of whining, angst-ridden, guitar-shrieking outcasts with the appeal of a choir of medically altered howler monkeys testing a suppository form of methamphetamine. And that is, quite decidedly, not good.
Concerning Tegan and Sara, the angry folk grrl duo from the Canadian wilds, there is a case to be made that they are on music’s larger radar screen because of Ani DiFranco. And that is a very good thing. On their sophomore album, If It Was You, T&S most assuredly bring a unique flavor to the brand of amped up folk that DiFranco has made her signature, but it’s almost too easy to limit comparisons of the sisters to just other female artists. Certainly there are dashes of Alanis (“Terrible Storm”), touches of the Roches (“And Darling”), and broad rock strokes of Ani (“Time Running”) and Chrissie Hynde (“I Hear Noises”), but Tegan and Sara have learned just as much from the boys; “Don’t Confess” throbs with a Travis/Coldplay pop heart, “Under Water” sports an Andy Partridge-like shimmer, and “Not Tonight” offers up a Stephin Merritt vibe. Tegan and Sara succeed on a grand scale because they wisely choose to avoid picking a single influence or style with which to align, preferring to build their diverse sound on a broad foundation using the most delightfully unexpected tools and materials.