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Tegan and Sara

Sainthood

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Label: Sire Records

It has been two years since Canadian sister-duo Tegan and Sara Quinn have been on tour, intertwining their voices. After much anticipation, they are back with an album that, at times, feels like great music to run to–as each song contains an acceleration that does not die down. These tracks rush from beginning to end, without the ease of instrumentation leading you into the lyrics or intention. Tegan and Sara are known for their repetitive lyrics, often singing the same words over and over until you are unable to judge the fact that not much has been actually written.

The theme of their sixth studio album, Sainthood, incorporates all of the elements that go along with the quest for love or relationships–whether it be commitment, repentance or a complete revelation of one’s imperfections. What is missing from this album is a variation in investigative ways in which musicians can vary their sounds and pace. There are no slow songs to play while lamenting a break-up or to fuel the art of missing someone. There aren’t really any surprises on this album, a disappointment especially when fans have waited so long for something new.

I’m always curious as to how an artist (or label) chooses which song should be the first single to come out. It can be a lot of pressure, since it often boosts anticipation and curiosity for what remains as the other tracks. “Hell” has been chosen as their door-swinging moment, pushing their voices back onto radio or through speakers since their last album, The Con, was released in 2007. It starts off feeling like a Jennifer Beals’ Flashdance song, with toes pressing fiercely against the floor and shoulders gyrating with the fast-paced chords. It has a high-energy feel to it, but upon closer listen to the lyrics, one will notice what’s really going on. They sing “I should mention in a song if I want to get along with change/ Who doesn’t want to change this.” They do a great job incorporating catchy beats into a song about the quick destruction of long-distance relationships or the apparent evolution of two people drifting.

“Night Watch” feels like vintage Tegan and Sara; it has a back-and-forth pull on the beat and an acceleration of vocals, in competition with the music. Though the lyrics are few, the message is clear and one in which most people who have entered into at least one relationship can relate to–that obvious sense of an expiration date. It is almost like a letter left on a voicemail (or in these days, a text message) that spells it out without the need for further diagnosis. Next time you are ready to call it quits, throw in some musical accompaniment and suddenly, it won’t feel so harsh. The one standout song appears to be “Northshore.” It is punky, without overstepping the boundaries of the lyrics. It is, simply, a song full of warnings ending with, “don’t love me.” It appears halfway into the album, and causes everything that comes before or after to it to feel less exciting and risky.

Sainthood represents the first time Tegan and Sara have merged their writing styles, captured on the track, “Paperback Head.” There is certainly a feel of abstract poetics happening, where the music seems to be dancing to a different beat of the lyrics, not exactly leaving the reader/listener with an understanding of what they were actually listening to. It feels disjointed and experimental, which should be celebrated. However, matched with the rest of these songs, it tends to get lost and become an outcast of the group.

If there wasn’t a pause between some of these songs, one might think that some of the tracks are continuations to the previous. This doesn’t necessarily have to be perceived as negative, but after waiting two years for something new to listen to by Tegan and Sara, there may be a sense of disappointment that there isn’t more of a variety of songs, exhibiting their experience as musicians and performers. They were blessed with voices that are unique and flexible, yet they rarely play with new sounds and directions that would point at all that they could do with all that they have.

by Aimee Herman

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