It’s hard to pinpoint what makes Tegan & Sara so special. On paper, it sounds like a nightmarish proposition: twin sisters with nasal voices singing over distorted guitars – like what could happen if the Olsens decided to go punk and sing songs about cheating lovers and having their period. But, it works. The band has consistently managed to excite with their developing sound, and the tunes on display on The Con are no exception, defying the album title by continuing to be bold, honest and believable.
Let’s have a brief recap, shall we? Our Canadian friends have so far released four other albums, hitting their stride with 2002′s If It Was You, which managed to capture the angst and uncertainty of leaving your adolescence behind with a frank, if at times reluctant, stance. 2004 saw the release of So Jealous, which helped to introduce their sound to a wider audience; tracks from the album were used in high profile TV shows such as ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘The L Word’, their song ‘Walking With A Ghost’ was covered by The White Stripes, and they even got sponsorship from DC Shoes. So, they should have refined that sound and be about ready to conquer the world this time around, right?
Maybe. Maybe not. The Con takes a darker twist on their usual formula, at times keeping the vocals claustrophobic while keyboard lines leer out from the introverted songs. The production, provided by Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla, is not as straightforward as their past releases, and it initially masks some of the hooks implanted in each song. Tracks like ‘Knife Going In’ and ‘Floorplan’ are given a much more subdued treatment than they would have received had they been written earlier in the band’s career. But don’t think that the patented Tegan & Sara melodrama is missing from this collection. Songs like ‘Nineteen’, ‘Hop A Plane’, ‘Dark Come Soon’ and first single ‘Back In Your Head’ see the sisters writhing and yelping about love gone horribly, horribly wrong. Frankly, we should be grateful that their love lives are so unfulfilling, as these are the inclusions that give The Con the punch it needs.
If you’re looking for something as immediate and poppy as past singles ‘I Hear Noises’ or ‘Speak Slow’ then you might be disappointed by this new collection. But, don’t be disheartened – given time, The Con will surely provide you with the same warm, squishy feeling once your ears are familiar with its subtle hooks and mature production.
[Sire; February 18, 2008]
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