Monday, September 30, 2019

Review: Hey, I'm Just Like You • Tegan and Sara

The title of Tegan and Sara's ninth studio record is a phrase that most kids want to hear but don't believe: Hey, I'm Just Like You. And there's probably good reason for that: Built upon buried cassette tape demos from their youth, the teenage record wears its late '90s timestamp with pride. Winning regional contests in high school and touring soon after graduation, the twins became professional musicians somewhere between the heydays of Nirvana and Avril Lavigne – when grunge and moody alt-rock were recurring mainstays in popular music – but remained mainstream-adjacent until their pop crossover earlier this decade. (History was made when they dropped "Closer," still an essential for any dance playlist or teen rom-com movie soundtrack.)

A collision point between the two sides of Tegan and Sara's musical career, Hey, I'm Just Like You smooths their rough '90s alt-rock origins with slick pop inclinations. Synthesizers are less prominent here than on their past two albums, but they're crucial complements to the record's sturdy choruses for sonic texture and depth. An electronic wall ignites "I Don't Owe You Anything" into a stadium-filling slow jam, and a subtle glittering line of electronics turn "We Don't Have Fun When We're Together Anymore" into a vintage homecoming homage. The alluring production also helps dampen the teenage feelings of distrust, unhappiness and angst, which may feel strangely soggy if conveyed through acoustic rock.

Hey, I'm Just Like You often evokes a fuzzy nostalgia, especially when Tegan and Sara dig their heels into infectious alt-rock – it's nearly instinctual to thrash your head around to "Don't Believe the Things They Tell You (They Lie)" or punch a fist in the air to "I'll Be Back Someday." And although the unadulterated melodrama can feel a little overdone in spots – see sappier tracks "Hello, I'm Right Here" and "Please Help Me" – the record largely seems to validate of their past feelings and interpret them through a modern, mature lens. It reminds us all that we are just like you – you, of course, being our younger selves, who endured all the messy, intense, misunderstood feelings so we could land where we are now.

Hey, I'm Just Like You is available now under Sire Records.

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