The Canadian lesbian dreamboats of all our hearts, Tegan and Sara released their seventh studio album, Heartthrob, last week, and it seems like the world has been all up in their grill ever since. Spin had them on their cover! Ladies from Kate Moennig to Katy Perry to Kylie Minogue to Sara Bareilles tweeted their praises! Lea Michele went to their concert in LA and said they “killed it!” Lisa Loeb hung out backstage and posted this adorable picture on Twitter, and between her still-unbelievably-wonderful glasses and Tegan’s hair, I don’t even know what to do with myself!
If you haven’t bought the album yourself yet, here’s my own initial reactions to it for you to consider. If you have already bought the album, consider this a safe space to flail.
Initial Feeling #1: Pop Wonderland!
While it’s impossible for any Tegan and Sara song to not feel distinctly Tegan and Sara-ish, they had veered into some new territory with their previous two studio albums, from the storytelling experimentation of The Con in 2007 to the fast-paced tracks of Sainthood in 2009. Yet with Heartthrob, they swing fully into synth-heavy pop, displayed so well in the opening track and first single, “Closer.”
By the 20 second mark, as the percussion really starts to set in, your toes are already tingling to get up and dance, or at least bounce a bit under your desk, and by the chorus, your whole body yearns to join in. The polished quality of the tunes, the steady beats and somewhat straightforward melodies, continue for the rest of the album. There’s no moody “Like O, Like H,” here, no hyper punkish “Northshore,” and if you scorn polished pop, that might leave you a little disappointed. But if you scorn pop, you probably wouldn’t be a Tegan and Sara fan in the first place. And music that makes you want to dance? That is always satisfying. As much as I love the last two albums, it’s clear that what they do on Heartthrob, they are masters at, and it’s difficult to not enjoy a band rocking out in a place where they’re so comfortable, and excelling so hard. Even though it was released in January, this is the type of album that’s made for summer, for late night dance parties and blaring stereo sing alongs in your car.
Lovesick, in the good ways and the bad
“Closer” is undoubtedly one of the mostly forthrightly sexy songs Tegan and Sara have ever released–like, it’s not just ALL physical, but they’re not saying it’s NOT physical, because all they think of lately is getting underneath someone, and stuff–which is complemented in lovely fashion by “Love They Say,” perhaps the most lesbian song they’ve ever released. This ballad is full of such unabashedly sweet lines like, “The first time I saw your face, I knew I was meant for you” and “You don’t need to wonder if love will make us stronger; there’s nothing love can’t do.” Basically, everything people have ever said about love they know is true, because of [enter lucky girlfriend’s name]! Awww, you guys!
Yet in between the few oh-so-in-love tracks, the large majority of the rest are concerned with the opposite of all that, which can be easily inferred from the titles themselves. In “Goodbye, Goodbye,” they rage, “You never really loved me, never ever loved me like they did. You could have told me goodbye.” Ouch. Other cheery titles herald emotions such as, “I Was a Fool,” “Now I’m All Messed Up,” and everyone’s favorite, “How Come You Don’t Want Me.” Babies, let me hold you!
This leads me to even more curiosity about Tegan and Sara’s songwriting process. Does this collection of so-in-love but yet-so-not tracks mean that one of them was uber enamored while writing this album, and the other was super heartbroken? Or were they both in love at first and then heartbroken later? Either way, the title of the record is apt; every single song is about the heart throbbing in one way or another. Don’t let the pop sound fool you; there’s hurt and anger here, and deeply so, along with the dreaming about being underneath people.
While Heartthrob feels entirely solid, I must admit that none of the tracks really live up to the outstanding energy of “Closer” in my view. But my other favorites that come close include “Drove Me Wild,” as well as the aforementioned depressingly titled, “How Come You Don’t Want Me,” which has a bittersweetly peppy chorus that reminds me of an updated 80s pop song, in the best way. I also find the two bonus tracks in the deluxe edition of the album to be fantastic, even with the achingly harsh lyrics of “I Run Empty:” “Don’t think I didn’t deserve what I got. Don’t think I didn’t deserve what I lost. I run empty until I feel nothing inside.” Man. Did I mention that I want to hold both of them? Let’s just play “Closer” again so we can imagine they’re happy and dancing and getting laid all the time.
Tegan and Sara are currently jetting to Europe to celebrate Heartthrob’s release there on February 11, returning to North America for a string of tour dates in Canada and the US throughout the spring, including a performance at Coachella in April. Next Sunday, we’ll also find out if they win their first ever Grammy for Get Along, their combo live DVD/CD released in 2011, which is nominated for Best Long Form Music Video.
What are your thoughts on Heartthrob?