The poised, charismatic sisters that make up the indie power-pop twosome Tegan and Sara always seem to be a step ahead of their game. Their music blends pop alt-rock with healthy dose of just what pop needs, integrity and passion. And then there’s that little spark that only a handful of bands have that makes them stand apart from the rest.
They know their fans—what they wear, what they eat and what they want. That being said, these H&M-wearing, pint-sized dedicated minions should be pleased with Tegan and Sara’s newest effort, Sainthood, a perfect milestone to document their progression as songwriters and their well-deserved rise to mini-stardom. Partially recorded at Sound City Studios, laid down amidst the superlative rock remnants of Nirvana’s Nevermind, Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled debut, and Tool’s Undertow to name a few, the record is a seasoned combination of pop-punk, new wave inspired tunes with catchy electro elements.
Although the image, artwork and an unparalleled connection to fans are a huge factor, it simply comes down to good songs and Tegan and Sara’s music tends to deliver without any sense of narcissism and entitlement. Their lyrics strike a nerve and could read like journal entries, allowing the uber fan to absolve deeper and deeper into the artist’s trance. And surely they’d drink the Kool-Aid if asked.
The opener is like that first page of a book—so good it convinces you to turn the page and keep going—grabbing the listener while setting the tone for each track thereafter. “Arrow” does just that, subliminally painting the cover art and colorful inserts within the first notes. Gratifyingly quirky and energetic, Sara delivers the lyrics staccato with a new wave backbeat that picks up speed as it builds until it’s released into a fun, loose power-pop anthem.
The album’s first single “Hell,” is a liberating ode to letting go and showcases Tegan’s traditional guitar-driven chops with help from heavy new wave power chords and cathartic lyrics, “When we get up and over it and over them!” “Northshore” is reminiscent of a Ramones classic clocking in at two minutes with simple lyrics, yet randomly descriptive and delivered effortlessly on a super speedy loop. “Something’s so sick about this my misery’s so addictive…” “Northshore” definitely wins as one of the catchiest and most addictive tracks on the record. “Red Belt” embraces Sara’s meticulous approach to the unconventional pop song. Its slow tempo and simple execution proves how brilliant simplicity can be.
In “Alligator” Sara’s voice displays soul fused pop and channels some classic R&B as the bright keyboard tinkering bounces with added distortion laid atop for affect. Her voice compliments the track perfectly, with her ‘60s teen pop vocals reminiscent of a young Ronnie Spector or Lesley Gore. “The Ocean”, is a bona fide crowd pleaser, catchy from start to finish. The melodic elements in the bridge preceding the impassioned lyrics, “All around me new love and it makes me sad all around me feel assured that you'll be back if I imagine your body next to another,” all ebbs and flow together, with the title lending itself as the perfect (possible) metaphor.
Sainthood is pure infectious indie-pop that has you chanting the lyrics in your head while feeling the beats pop internally after the first listen, but without neglecting the edginess and sincerity that sets it apart. Something truly thought provoking and interesting has been birthed yet again, but this baby is wiser and a bit more refined than its respectable siblings.