To me, the best kind of pop music is the kind that can fashion a certain duality for itself, like upbeat and catchy instrumentation with torn and tender songwriting. Whether it be a classic such as The Beach Boys’ “Sloop John B,” or the futuristic stylings of Robyn’s Body Talk. The combative juxtaposition of upbeat and introspective is one that really brings out the best in the genre. It’s also something that Canadian twins Tegan and Sara have attempted to capture on their latest offering Heartthrob.
Album number seven sees the duo depart from their preferred, acoustically-founded indie rock/pop mold and head into much glossier territory. The dozen tracks that make up Heartthrob are unashamedly and undeniable pure pop. The indie darlings have put aside their quirk and took a step back from their fretboards. In doing so they have plugged themselves into a much more FM radio friendly and accesible style. Clean keyboard riffs, digital production and sweet, sweet synth work makes for a solid, catchy, upbeat and joyus body of work. An interesting yet risky gamble, considering it’s a move which may very well divide their current fans, who have in essence become an essential factor in the pair getting this far.
Although there is a more saccharine tone to the sisters’ new sound it’s not without merit. Upon first hearing the brightly colored mechanics of Heartthrob you could be forgiven for thinking that they are in danger of morphing into another non-descript Billboard act. But there’s intelligence to their compositions — they know how to implement and wield a catchy hook, but the structure upon which that hook is built is well thought out and executed nicely.
The thematic underbelly of most songs here see the pair put their songwriting skills to good use. There’s no disposable lyrics to be found; instead you have a collection of quite introspective and personal songs dealing with the multi-faceted weapon we call love. There is room to improve (as is the case with the record’s instrumental side), but what could have been a dangerous left turn in Tegan and Sara’s career has turned out to be quite the smart maneuver.
How their more accesible sound sits with their current fandom is a question that remains to be answered. But I for one find myself pretty immersed in their new direction. It’s a style that works surprisingly well for them and could have the potential to grow bigger and better in time.