"I practiced on my sainthood/I gave to one and all/But the
rumours of my virtue/They moved her not at all"
The lyrics from Leonard Cohen's 1976 song, "Came So Far For Beauty," work as the inspiration behind Sainthood, the sixth studio album from twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin. For the last ten years, the Canadian musicians have worn their hearts on their sleeves with their music. Starting out as the little folk duo that could, the sisters have matured into one of the finest indie rock bands today. They've beautifully grown into their song writing and Sainthood is a testament to that, as it is the finest work of their career.
Yes, the theme of the album still revolves around relationships, but Sainthood features the best lyrics the sisters have ever written. Continuing the trend set on 2007's The Con, Tegan and Sara's lyrics go deeper than the typical relationship drama. The struggle, grief, and bitterness bleed and breathe throughout the album. In one instance, Tegan wants to make a relationship work, only to realize it's futile on the aptly titled, Cure-tinged "The Cure." Immediately after, Tegan closes herself off to every one on the punk-flavored "Northshore." The lyrics throughout Sainthood convey many emotions. Frankly, the conversations here are just more adult. Over the eerie, electronic vibe of "Night Watch," Sara admits, "I need distance from your body / I deserve this anguish on my house." You'd never hear a line like this even five years ago from this band, displaying the lyrical strides Tegan and Sara have made.
But let's not overlook the music now. Sainthood is Tegan and Sara flexing their muscles. From the stuttering synth and bass patterns on opener "Arrow" to the piano-pop groove of "Alligator," the compositions from the Quin's have never been better. Each track sounds confident. First single "Hell" is a guitar-driven rocker right out of Alkaline Trio's playbook, while "Don't Rush" features a gritty bass line from Death Cab For Cutie's (and album producer) Chris Walla. A consistent highlight of Sainthood is the prevalence of keys, whether they are in the form of synthesizer or piano, as they really flesh out a good portion of the songs.
The Quin sisters have a knack for closing out their albums strongly, and Sainthood is no different. "Sentimental Tune" is a delicious pop number that is brought to climax with just the right amount of strings, while the vibrant "Someday" displays that internal struggle that the Quin sisters always seem to face. It sums up the message of Sainthood quite nicely; themes of self-assurance, fear, denial, and confidence all exude from the final track, as well as throughout the album.
With Sainthood, Tegan and Sara have proven that they've perfected the three-minute-and-under indie pop song while having the lyrical depth to give each track substance. Sainthood delivers a wide variety of moods, tempos, and vibes throughout its thirteen tracks, and it excels in all four phases of the game - lyrics, musicianship, vocals, and production - thus making it one of the essential records to own in 2009. Tegan sings on "Someday" that she "Might write something I might want to say to you someday, might do something I'd be proud of someday. Mark my words, I might be something someday." With Sainthood, that someday is now.