After listening to Tegan & Sara’s second most recent
record – The Con (2007), I recall being almost immediately
swept away. All it took was one listen – or maybe two
– to become utterly entranced. I promptly deemed it one of
the top 10 albums I’d ever heard. It was one of those rare
occasions as a music junkie that you listen to a full album and
just about every song delivers a thunderbolt of WOW … I
GET it. Every song just speaks to you.
Sainthood does not have the same immediate effect. But it’s growing ...
I’m a little bashful to admit that I am something of a T & S super fan. (Not only did I purchase tickets to the Denver concert at The Odgen right when they went on sale last week even though the show isn’t until April 4 but I also felt compelled to fly to Los Angeles this weekend to see them at The Orpheum on Monday AND dropped like $80 on the Sainthood pre-order that comes with three T & S tour books). Thus, I was practically trembling with anticipation of Sainthood.
After all, T & S (mostly Tegan, I think, because she seems to be the more social media obsessed of the two) have seriously been talking it up on their blog and Twitter (which are hilarious, by the way. They are also interviewing themselves on Spinner.com leading up to the official release of Sainthood. So funny. You should check them out if you haven’t yet). They’ve mentioned how, for the first time in their musical career, they wrote these songs together, diverging from their previous tendency to privately write their own tunes (as in … Tegan retreating to her creative solitude in Vancouver and writing stuff and Sara doing the same in Montreal) to collaborate on all of the Sainthood tracks.
As with The Con, Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla took the reigns in production of the new record. The album’s first single, “Hell” has been available on T & S’s Website and iTunes for a few weeks now.
It must be said that upon the first listen of “Hell,” I didn’t love it either. At first it just sounded over-produced and a bit too poppy. Then I listened to it approximately 47 more times. And now it’s coursing through my veins like a mantra.
I’m thinking a number of other tunes on Sainthood will follow suit. The new record doesn’t hit the streets until Oct. 27, but the entire 13-song lineup is now being streamed on Tegan & Sara’s MySpace page. I’m on about round No. 4 … so far.
The songs growing the fastest hooks (in addition to the harsh but catchy “Hell,” which etched a place in my heart upon maybe the sixth listen) include “Arrow,” the imagery of which is jolting – “I feel the breeze, your feathers of an arrow” – and the riffs grinding and immediately commanding. It evokes thoughts of those people in our lives inclined to constantly giving us just a glimpse of what they’re about rather than the whole penetrating picture … those people who never share what they truly think about you or themselves or anything that’s real. Not sure if this hits the mark (so to speak) of what the Quin sisters had in mind when they wrote it, but … to each their own.
Instrumentally, “Someday” is bouncy and happy, replete with what sounds like children shouting in the first few verses, then Tegan is almost tearful with sentiments like “might do something I’d be proud of someday/ I might be something someday” and borderline imploring when chanting “I don’t want to know that you don’t want me/ I don’t want to know what you do without me.”
“The Cure” takes a turn into the resolute, with a quieter, sadder feel and delivers poignant shivers with lines like “all I said to you/all I did for you/seems so silly to me now.”
Also, the fiery “Northshore” is likely going to be the most rocking live number the twins will ever perform: “Don’t feel/don’t tear/don’t kiss/don’t care/don’t want me/don’t want me/don’t want me.” Seriously can’t wait to hear that one from the stage.
A couple of tracks on Sainthood just might never blow my skirt up … maybe because they’re a little too reminiscent of existing pop tunes, and simply not raw enough. In “Don’t Rush,” the “one way or another” line is so Blondie it’s distracting and in “Paperback Head,” there’s a whole lot of talk about “material girl” and “sugar and spice.” It lacks edge… not to mention that the title is enough to evoke visuals of Sara Quin as a wax figure in one of her trademark black and white striped oversized t-shirts with a copy of Richard Ford’s Independence Day (supposedly her favorite book) perched on her head like the roof of an A-frame. “Night Watch” begins speaking about “grounds for divorce.” Historically, Sara’s lyrics have always been a bit more abstract and allegorical then Tegan’s, but “divorce” just seems like the wrong word to use for pulling away from somebody, which is presumably what this song is about (though I could be totally wrong).
However, hear this. Even as I listen to some of these tracks that at first struck me as questionable, they are sinking into the gut a little bit more each time. It’s possible that by round No. 30 or so I may count at least a couple of these tunes in my top favorites of all time. AND – the live renditions are bound to blow the doors off. Still, it remains to be seen if Sainthood will ever measure up to The Con, So Jealous or If It Was You.