Tegan & Sara - Sainthood

Over ten years of indie rock/pop/folk activity, twins Tegan and Sara Quin of Tegan & Sara have undergone several changes, taking on new musical personalities for almost every album. While the changes from album to album may be subtle, the dynamic has altered greatly between 1999's Under Feet Like Ours and the newly released Sainthood. Gone entirely are the folksy, acoustic ballads of the early band, now replaced with an 80's-revival style of synth-y pop-rock. Even more interesting is that the nasal whine and self-loathing subplots of 2004's So Jealous and 2007's The Con, respectively, have been replaced with a more dance-heavy, but realistically somber style.

Their first album writing songs together, Sainthood feels more collaborative and more mature. (Not that the previous albums, especially The Con, weren't laden with maturity.) Tegan & Sara let the music operate as the essential provider of dreaminess now, with lyrics more starkly about relationships, devotion and heartbreak. These lyrics are claustrophobic at times, built from constant repetition that feels like being trapped within the weighty existential thoughts of their subject matter. The opening track "Arrow" feels like Camus' The Stranger with it's dichotomy of sensation and question. And the looping verses, at a quick pace, is aurally disorienting in a philosophical way. This is not an album that opens with a perfectly crafted pop single. It opens with a litany of questions and the knowledge that, as an arrow, our lovely protagonists will be flying through those questions at a high speed. And from that opening admission of fear and complication the album unfolds with "Don't Rush" and its simultaneous hope and defensiveness, "Hell," which points out the futility in those cliche words of love (in a vaguely Sartrian way), and the high school romance-gone-real track "On Directing".

And Sainthood stays on course. The breakup anthem "Night Watch" is a direct and power dagger to the heart of one failed love, while "The Ocean" passionately pleads for love's return and that closeness and affection. Tegan & Sara grow more nostalgic for love, and less questioning of it as the album marches, but "Sentimental Song" is a true treat. In this second to last track there is love, but also a clear strike against the sentimentality involved in writing love songs. It's a true burner.

Sainthood may not be as strong or as experimental or as catchy as The Con, but it is vividly clear evidence of Tegan & Sara's growth as a band, as songwriters and now as a song-writing duo. The essences of heartbreak and loss and love gone awry remain, but the voices have matured and seem less focused on how they might have wronged that lost beloved, and more focused on how that lost beloved didn't know how good he had it when that love was there. And all that beautifully accomplished through perspective rather than being a pure "fuck you" album.

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