Sunday, June 12, 2016

Love You To Death | Tegan and Sara

So we're already all on the same page with Tegan and Sara's pop crossover, yes? The best possible move for their career? They probably should have been here all along? "Closer" is a timeless bop? Perfect.

Heartthrob, the Canadian duo's true crossover to the synthpop world, was packed with music made for every teen movie soundtrack under the sun. "Fool For Love" accompanies dramatic shots of the two main characters laying alone on their respective beds, staring at the ceiling and clearly thinking about each another. "Closer" plays behind dialogue on the dance floor at the inevitable prom scene near the end of the flick, eventually culminating into a full montage of dancers to signify the climax of the students' excitement. This painting a pretty familiar picture for you? It should.

And while I'm already asking for group consensus, can we just say that musical acts marketing themselves as a synthpop outfit and not channeling the '80s at this point are weird and can't sit with us? Really, the influences are so tightly embedded in today's synthpop that it no longer feels like a nostalgia trip (or for some of us youngins, an experience that we equate to feeling "so '80s" based on pop culture because we obviously didn't live through that well-loved decade).

With this said, Tegan & Sara have their membership cards to sit at the cool kids' lunch table. Love You to Death, produced in full by Greg Kurstin (pop music's cover-all producer, working with Kelly Clarkson, Sia, Ellie Goulding, and company), is chunky and percussion-heavy. It meshes well with the twins' voices, both quite shouty in manner. Granted, many of this album's tracks step on each other's toes sonically, but what they've got going here is quirky enough to pick the record up and give it a few good spins.

Both standing at age 36, Tegan and Sara are relatively young in the grand scheme things -- unless we're looking through the scope of the music industry, which really doesn't pay any mind to people over the age of 40 outside of the "living legend" category. And they're surprisingly self-aware, stressing the maturity of their lyrics while sticking from pop's favorite theme: love, of course (if you hadn't been able to gather that information from the uber cryptic title).

This maturity is well displayed on "Dying to Know." Tracks like it usually come packaged with a sentiment that the artist would be a better partner than anybody else to an ex. Tegan and Sara's tune, however, masks heartbreak and an underlying yearn with the guise of nothing more than curiosity. Revenge is never the point here. Sex, hook-ups, and one night stands, staples of pop music and mistakenly tied to love, aren't really prominent, either (minus on "Stop Desire," which begs for attention... in more than one way). Instead, these women want to build long-lasting, iron-clad relationships in which there is mutual respect and understanding ("Boyfriend," "U-turn," "Faint of Heart") or revive old flames ("That Girl," "Dying to Know").

Once again, as the record draws on, it does prove to be a bit... samey: a lot of drums and a lot of similar synth tones that make the tracks melt together into a giant, sticky lump. Even still, this is indisputably the duo's most pop-accessible release to date; the hooks are there, the drum machines are heavier than the heartbeats behind the love and loss, and the angsty undertones have been muted. It, even more so than Heartthrob, is of purely pop DNA -- and that I can really appreciate.

Love You to Death is available now under Warner Bros. Records.

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