After seven albums, Tegan and Sara have fully embraced their pop side on their latest record, Heartthrob. A record filled with emotion and top-notch songs, it’s a natural progression for the group and a culmination of the sounds they’ve been tinkering with for several years now. Inspired by groups as diverse as Erasure and Ace of Base, Heartthrob sees Tegan and Sara taking on synthpop in a way that is both natural and refreshing.
Opener and first single “Closer“ is a pure pop song with a fantastic hook. Sung by Tegan, the tune is a bold change and an engaging piece of pop music. Its followup “Goodbye, Goodbye” is a bittersweet number that is just as good as its predecessor. There’s some fantastic production here, with subtle flourishes to the song that only add to the great songwriting and singing from Sara.
The album hits its stride with the fourth song and second single “I’m Not Your Hero.” A love song on the surface, the tune could be portrayed as the group’s response to the LBGT movement that it’s become such an integral part of. Sara made headlines when she wrote a letter condemning the hateful homophobic lyrics in many of rapper Tyler the Creator’s music. This song could very well be another response to that as Sara pushes away the role as a leader within the movement. It’s a stunning and brave song that stands as one of the highlights of the band’s career.
Heartthrob is an album of pop highs, with Tegan and Sara taking the best parts of their influences and infusing them into the band’s DNA. “I Couldn’t Be Your Friend” would’ve been a nice acoustic-based song on a previous album. Here’s it’s a gorgeous tune with production that emphasizes the piano break. “I’m All Messed Up” is another stunner. Quiet, yet angry, it’s a nice break before the closer, “Shock to Your System” begins. Dark and menacing, it’s song is the perfect ending to Heartthrob, summing up the themes of love and regret that permeate throughout the record.
Tegan and Sara have been around for over ten years, creating several good albums in that time. Embracing pop may sound like a sell out to some fans, but it’s the right move for the band. Their writing prowess and production awareness help them keep their craft intact while taking their sound to new heights. If this is the new look of Tegan and Sara, then it’s the right move for a band well into their second decade of existence.