Date: October 4, 2009
Author: Bradley Stern
Headline: Tegan and Sara: Sainthood (Album Review)

I am, by no means, a rock music aficionado.

And by "rock," I mean anything primarily driven by the sound of a guitar. As a friend of mine joked, let's face it: If it doesn't have an electronic hand-clap, I'm sort of at a loss.

That isn't to say that I dislike anything that isn't easily characterized by how squeaky the synthesizers sound. Take for instance, Tegan and Sara, a band that has always served as a strong exception in my music catalog. Be it their cutting, urgent lyricism or unbelievably catchy choruses, I've always had a soft spot for their indie-pop, alt-folk, whatever-you-want-to-call-it sort of sound.

On October 27, the Canadian duo will debut their sixth studio album, Sainthood. Produced by Death Cab For Cutie's Chris Walla, the man behind their 2007 release The Con, and Howard Redekopp, the man behind 2004's So Jealous, the sisters sought to create a sound somewhere in between the two, as suggested by Tegan in an interview with MyMag: "I think the fan favorites in terms of records have been our last two. So we brought in the production teams from both and made a hybrid of sound."

According to the duo's press release, the album was "inspired by emotional longing and the quiet actions we hope may be noticed by the objects of our affection. Sainthood is about obsession with romantic ideals." As a result, the album feels more serious than past efforts. It's heavier emotionally and musically, utilizing jagged stitches of electronica (as with lead track "Arrow") and jolting guitar riffs ("Hell") to characterize the darker themes of the album (at times perhaps even a bit too mired in production).

Still characterized by sharp, repetitive choruses and driving bass lines, Sainthood is purely the stuff of Tegan and Sara, if not a bit more open to experimentation and electronic indulgence: The punk-esque rawk of "Northshore" crashes in unexpectedly seven songs into the album, only to then be contrasted by the chilly, paced rhythm of "Night Watch!", one of the two songs reportedly written about their parents.

Favorites include "The Ocean," which tacks together a hastened drum beat with some of the album's most poignant, breathless lyrics: "Stop crying to the ocean, stop crying over me, stop worrying over nothing, stop worrying over me…So, it's been so long since you said, 'Well, I know what I want, and what I want is right here with you.'" It's affecting, in the same way Tegan and Sara songs always seem to be.

The piano-marked, perhaps even disco-inspired "Alligator" is likewise irresistible; a hypnotizing array of twinkling bells, high hats, and piano chords, and a hint of maraca (my bad-upon further review, that's just the sound of the high hat!), while "The Cure" and "On Directing" offer nods to classic Tegan & Sara song construction and lyricism: "All I said to you, all I did for you seems so silly to me now," Tegan fires off before breaking into a lush chant of "Oh, oh oh!" from just above the speakers.

Rounding out the effort is the album's gorgeous rallying closer, "Someday," which meshes an overwhelming display of self-assurance in the face of a break-up ("Might do something I'd be proud of someday, mark my words I'm going to be something someday"), resulting in a palpable sense of uncertainty about the future; perhaps even denial ("I don't want to know that you don't want me, I don't want to know what you'd do without me, I don't want to know what I'll be without you, I don't want to know, I don't want to know.")

The result-as with the album as a whole-is nothing short of an emotional triumph, standing strong with some of the finer releases of the year.