ARTIST: Tegan and Sara
The talented twins have been a part of the indie music scene for a few decades now with seven released albums. Their innocent, rock-centered tracks have grown in popularity over the years with tracks such as "Walking With a Ghost" and "Back In Your Head". The Canadian sisters have harnessed their piercing vocals and charming production choices, but have broken away from their comfort zone with Heartthrob. Trading in their raw acoustic pop sound for mainstream pop is a risky decision, especially in the eyes of their devoted fans. It could just be that this sound from Tegan and Sara is so different that many are in a state of simple and temporary shock. It could be that the thought and execution hit completely different targets. In some respects this could be a smart decision in terms of profitability and creative evolution; however, only if done right. Not concluding that Heartthrob is a complete failure but from the overdone dance synth and electro pop sound, it is hard to say that the album is perfection.
Heartthrob is a ten-track album devoted to the innocence and torture of falling for someone during the teenage years. Songs explore reflective, vulnerable, and headstrong tones that are all reminiscent of that awkward age. Although the duo is thirty-three in ages, they still have the ability to harness such blunt and painful emotions. From problems with spatial distance, broken relationship, self-confidence, and the triumphant nature of love, the album has a wide selection of lyrical material to explore. However the content is a little underdeveloped. “You don’t need to wonder/ If love will make us stronger/ there’s nothing love can’t do,” on "Love They Say" is an overwritten cliché as well as “I couldn’t be your friend/ even if I tried,” on "I Couldn’t Be Your Friend". It seems as though the effort is somewhat apparent but is stale. The album seems to carry a sense of immaturity within mood, yet also within the lyrical development of Heartthrob.
In a lot of respects the new sound works really well. Tracks such as "Closer", "I Couldn’t Be Your Friend", and "Shock to Your System" have very few flaws in terms of overproduction and appeal. "Closer" is a track that explores that heavy dance synth sound, but the chorus is really well produced making both of their voices sound strong and makes for a stable hook. It’s catchy and works for an opening track. "I Couldn’t Be Your Friend" is another track that is not overdone with the relentless piano hook that brings the track down to Earth. And "Shock to Your System" is the best track of the entire album with the airy vocals and triumphant battle cry of a sound; it’s the happy medium of the new mainstream pop sound and their older vibes. But these three tracks alone cannot carry the rest of the album. And tracks such as "Drove Me Wild" and "Now I’m All Messed Up" weigh the album down with nothing really to hold on to. The two did switch producers on this album to Greg Kurstin who has written songs for Kelly Clarkson to P!nk, along with Justin Meldal-Johnsen, and Mike Elizondo, which may have been their faulted risk. Trying to expand one’s dynamic for their music is one thing, but jumping in head first without testing the waters might result in death by musical riptide.
Despite the incongruence of Heartthrob, the album undeniably was made to keep fans on their feet and dancing. It’s a catchy album that will have one just giving in to all jumping and fist-pumping sensations. It will have the listener feeling some nostalgia, with songs that will flood the minds with memories of high school (which may not always contribute to the best of feelings). The dance infectious state of the album and honesty that it expresses are exciting, but the newer and more adventurous aspects of Heartthrob may take some time for comfortable adjustment.
“I think our biggest fear after this many years would be to put our record out and have people say, ‘Oh it's another Tegan and Sara record.’ I think that's how we've stayed relevant and we've stayed successful for the last decade-plus and also just to keep us interested.”