Date: September 2004
Author: Joe del Tufo
Arriving in 1998 as the teenage punk/folk heir to the Ani Difranco's throne, Tegan and Sara Quin quickly found an audience with their loopy/ virtually standup stage presence. Spots on the Lillith Fair and opening slots on the Neil Young, Ben Folds and Pretender's tours also helped get the word out. With each release, Tegan and Sara have added more complexity and taken their sound in a slightly new directions. Their last disc If It Was You was a challenging listen after the instantly accessible This Business Of Art, but yielded its fruits generously to the patient listener. So Jealous, the most recent offering from our favorite Canadian twins, proves an even tougher nut to crack than the previous release.
A lot of disparate terms have been used to position Tegan and Sara's music- they have been called folk, pop, indie, power pop, punk, riot grrls, chillout and rock. So Jealous is challenging because it does its best to polish the better elements of all of influences these into a cohesive whole. There is significantly more production evident on So Jealous, and for once this is not a crticism. It is also a busier listen, with more musical elements layered throughout than on previous releases. The shifting of acoustic to electric to acoustic guitars is noticeable, particularly on the opening track, "You Wouldn't Like Me". I'm not certain what the lead single is for So Jealous, but this would certainly be a good choice. Sounding like some wonderful garage/pop hybrid, "You Wouldn't Like Me" showcases what is best about T&S- a rowdy energy that is somehow focused into something cogent, catchy, and occasionally beautiful. The big beat drums are a nice touch, and something that had been missing from their previous work. There is also a sense of lyrical irony going on here, as the girls ponder the logic of "causing a new heartbreak to write a new broken song." Indeed many of the tracks on So Jealous are about relationships on one fringe or another, and the girls seem to riff off of the raw emotion to create music that emulates these feelings.
Another standout track, "Take Me Anywhere", follows and continues this high-energy, emotionally charged approach. The lyrics are still very simple and straightforward on So Jealous, but somehow arrive more poignant. "Bright just like the stars above me, proud just like my mother planned it, short on all the things I don't want, full of love and longing." One really nice technique is the analog doubling of the vocals- since their voices are so similar, the effect is similar to that found on (too) slick pop records, but maintains enough of a organic sense to make it sound unique and refreshing.
Other highlights on the disc include the poppy/ retro "I Bet It Stung", with its whacked vocal effects and jangly wall of guitar; "Downtown", with its polished and glistening vocals barely coating the track's inherent sense of longing; and the 80s-ish "Walking With The Ghost" with its Car's-like synthesizer and Missing Personsesque vocals. The Twin Peaksy sounding title track is a real anomaly here with its almost progressive time changes and unique instrumentation. The ironically titled "Speak Slow" is another searing track. With it pulsing, chanted vocal "speak slow, tell me love, where do we go" it is one of those tracks that stick long after each listen.
To summarize, much like their critically acclaimed If It Was You, So Jealous is a remarkable album that requires repeated listens to appreciate its true colors. With its big sound, and several outstanding potential singles, it seems poised to be the girls' breakout release. Props to Tegan and Sara for being daring enough to stretch their sound again, even within the album itself, into something both catchy and challenging. They have a small tour set up to support the release, and I suspect you'd better catch them while you still canů