Author: Josh Tager
Headline: Pop Profile: Tegan and Sara
Tegan and Sara, a Canadian-based twin-sister musical act, have become the toast of the alternamusic set with the release of their fourth album, "So Jealous," an impressive collection of pop music infused with wisps of folk and hints of punk. Over the course of their relatively short musical careers, they've played in all three genres, but this current formula sounds just about right.
Born in 1980, Tegan and Sara Quin pursued ordinary childhoods filled with piano lessons, schoolwork and big dreams for the future. Tegan longed to be a clown or a veterinarian for polar bears. Sara wanted to work as a lawyer in Boston.
But when they were 15, they discarded these dreams to launch careers as punk rockers with their very own garage band, Plunk. (They've since derided Plunk as "wussy punk.") Fate served Plunk an early retirement when a rambunctious audience member destroyed a key piece of their equipment, forcing them to pursue an acoustic sound.
The duo continued to play and polish their quieter music, garnering lots of local attention for their guitar-driven folk songs. But their big break onto the Canadian musical scene came with their dramatic 1998 win at the renowned Calgary band contest Garage Warz.
Working off their newfound success, Tegan and Sara toured with the Lilith Fair and played shows with a handful of musical luminaries, including Neil Young (who later signed them to his label, Vapor Records), Kinnie Starr, Rufus Wainwright and The Pretenders. On the road they polished both their music and their celebrated sassy (and occasionally crass) banter, including a now-legendary onstage discussion of diarrhea. And, of course, they've updated their fashion, makeup, and hair in a style that would fit right in on any MTV show.
Though Tegan and Sara launched their careers with songs colored by an acoustic folk sound, they've successfully navigated the punk and folk minefield by pulling from each of these traditions with an unabashed pop flair. Their musical evolution is well-timed in a market already saturated with both punk and folk acts.
"So Jealous" may be Tegan and Sara's best release yet. They apply their slightly unusual pop vocals (think The Bangles) like a trademark on each track. Moments of punk attitude and ornamental guitar strums lace their otherwise robust pop music.
"Walking With a Ghost" is a solid pop song made even better by its simple beats. The vocals, tinged with new wave flavor, give this an old-school feel for fans of pop with an attitude. "I Know I Know I Know" is a standard Tegan and Sara study of love, and it's a fun listen for all of its hooks and good beats.
Although they're lesbian, Tegan and Sara benefit from intense crossover appeal, having won loads of fans, both straight and gay, based on the virtues of their music. They're simultaneously sex symbols for many of their fans and representative of a new era of musicianship that's predicated on talent rather than on labels.