Date: June 22, 2005
Author: Paige Newman
Headline: Twin-powered pop with a bite
They’re identical twin sisters, they’re lesbians, they choose to live on opposite sides of Canada so they’re able to work together without driving each other crazy, and their record label requested that they please write songs about “something other than love.” Yeah, right. Considering the way these two adore writing love songs, it’s easy to picture Tegan and Sara politely giving the finger to that request.
These former folkies have moved on to something distinctly more poppy and fun with the help of New Pornographers producers David Carswell and John Collins. Don’t let their new sound fool you, though, they’re still heartbroken and they still lament the bad choices they’ve made on the path to love. Their latest CD “So Jealous” is addictive, danceable and has a surprisingly forceful quality — oh, and it does indeed include some songs about love, thank goodness.
The emphasis is purely on the vocals here and while you may never figure out which sister is singing lead and who’s doing harmony, the voices weave in and out of each other seamlessly.
“Most of our record it’s not even Sara singing on my songs or me singing on hers. It’s just us doing our own vocals," Tegan said in an interview with Seattle web site Three Imaginary Girls. "I mean, our band is Tegan and Sara and we perform the songs live and we contribute to each others songs. Like if I can’t get a harmony for some reason, she'll jump in and do it…We really come together on the road. Prior to that we are like two separate people writing a record together.”
Unlike a lot of pop music around at the moment, Tegan and Sara wisely keep the instrumentation stripped down, with just a few interesting touches like some Moog work from Matt Sharp (formerly of Weezer).
Their pop hooks draw you in instantly. It’s hard not to get caught up in, “Take Me Anywhere,” which at first glance seems like the perfect crush song, with its lines “Take me by the hand and tell me / You would take me anywhere,” but then suddenly you crash up against the line, “You, you say you don’t see any part of me / to love in all this mess.” Even in a seemingly innocuous crush song, there’s still bite — a quality that all of their songs seem to posses. It’s just one more thing to love about them.
Tegan and Sara are able to change the quality of their voices, so that in song like “Where Does the Good Go,” one sister can sing a sweet primary melody while the other sings in a flat, dejected fashion underneath. “Look me in the eye and promise no love’s like our love / Look me in the heart and unbreak broken / it won’t happen.” It gives an emotional nakedness to the songs that betrays the influence of Sanctuary Record’s Neil Young.
It’s hard to imagine making music with your sister, particularly your identical twin sister — someone who probably thinks she knows you better than yourself. But somehow, even though they need to put an entire country between them, Tegan and Sara manage to make it work. Thank goodness.