Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob

Ryan Reed

By Ryan Reed

on 01.29.13 in Reviews


Tegan and Sara

In the past, the inherent quality of Tegan and Sara’s scrappy tunes has always eclipsed the duo’s actual talent. And, really, that’s been an essential part of their charm: In spite of their nasally voices and ramshackle instrumental skills, these twin Canucks have wrangled their hooks through sweat and persistence, expanding and refining their sound with each subsequent album — from the bratty Lilith Fair-emo of 2004′s So Jealous to the layered, sculpted art-pop of 2007′s The Con and 2009′s Sainthood. But with their seventh studio album, Heartthrob, Tegan and Sara are no longer underdogs. Working with a top-tier trio of hip producers (Greg Kurstin, Mike Elizondo, Justin Meldal-Johnsen), they’ve plunged head-first into slick, air-tight ’80s synth-pop, each melody and riff buffed and waxed with studio sheen.

Thirty-six minutes of escapist pop bliss

Turns out, commercial grab-ass is their true calling: Heartthrob is nuclear-catchy from start to finish. Tegan still handles the robust arena-friendly singles: bittersweet, butterflies-in-stomach electro-anthems like “Closer” and “Drove Me Wild.” Sara’s songs — even within this high-gloss context — are still quirkier and more eclectic: “Now I’m All Messed Up” is heart-melting piano ballad turned new-wave belter; “Shock to Your System” closes the album with a sensual R&B stunner, mingling spacey synth flurries with a sparse piano-drums groove. Heartthrob is a glitzy parade of nostalgic, windows-down catharsis — 36 minutes of escapist pop bliss.