26 June 2016

Tegan & Sara - Love You to Death

Tegan & Sara are identical twin sisters from Calgary, Alberta, Canada who have been releasing music since 1985; they are prominent figures in the LGBT community, political activists for cancer research, LGBT issues as well as musical education.  They are a name I have heard in passing, but not an act I have heard until a few weeks ago when the show which follows mine on NE1FM in the North East of England played one of their songs.  It was a moment where my interest was snared due to the vocals, they spoke to me in a way that early 80 synth acts have done in the past - passion & electronica mixed into a little pop gem.  So I resolved to review this album and as I need a little break from the intense acts I have been listening, I thought I would take on something which on the surface looks easy, but some of the darkest moments I have heard in music have come in the form of a light pop song - will this album be full of such hidden gems?

Starting off the album is "That Girl", a song about the moment you realise that you have changed for the worse and left a relationship that is not working out with the person you loved slowly realising that you are not a lover, but the enemy within.  The dynamic between the quite verses/loud chorus is used to emphasise the shock and realisation of the truth, the bridge a breakdown when a cry for help & return to a former self is echoed.  It is a good song, a few explosive moments and the vocals of Tegan & Sara work very well; but it is not the track I would have opened the album with, I would have done that with the second song "Faint of Heart".  A song about the struggles of a relationship when people are trying to say that a couple who are getting together and there are outside forces who are adding their own thoughts and feelings to the agenda - saying that the relationship is doomed and other negative messages.  It is a song, a plea that things will get heart and that it is tough; but together it will be worth it in the end.  Musically, it is very similar to "That Girl" with the quite verses & loud chorus; but it has that hook that is really infectious and it is a song that is currently heavy repeat in my house.  "Boyfriend" was the first song off the album to be released as a single and it is about a situation when a lady has a boy and a girl on the go at the same time, but the girl is wanting to become exclusive.  Being in a relationship when someone is not willing to commit and has others who would be vying for the lover status is not an easy place to be when you are clearly more committed to the situation, so this song is about that stage when one person is calling for the decision.  It is in a similar style to "That Girl" and "Faint of Heart", it reminds me a little of "Shut Up + Dance" from Walk the Moon and it will be one that works incredibly well in a nightclub, it is another good number which is synth heavy and to the point. 

"Dying to Know" is about reconnecting with an ex and all the strange questions that come with that situation - did you think about me, was it worth it, are you happy, I wish we never met - the sort of stuff that most people will have been through and will recognise that emotional baggage that can envelope your life when this happens and stuff is still really fresh.  The electronica on this song is a little heavier, but not by that much to distinguish itself from the first songs of the album.  Not in a bad way as each song is a little pop gem, but all together it is starting to blur into one song apart from the lyrics.  "Stop Desire" is a song about hooking up with someone and not about the emotional baggage of a relationship, with a small dose of upbeat music added to the standard formula that has been the bulk of this album.  It was the third song that was released to promote the album and it received a lot of praise when it was first played on the Zane Lowe's Beats 1 show (according to some internet stuff I read, never been a Zane Lowe fan TBH).  Musically, it reminds me of the Speedway cover of Christina Aguilera's "Genie in A Bottle", but without the guitars being used in the song.  Lyrically it is good to hear the subject being changed to something else, not everything in love is painful and it is good it gives the song an edge over some of the other numbers.  "White Knuckle" is about the early stages of Tegan & Sara forming a band and the fights that came with it, not all sisterly relationship are smooth sailing all of the time.  I actually like this song a lot, even though at times I find myself getting a little lost with the music in places on this album.  It does distinguish itself with a darker undercurrent to the music, the lyrical context has an intensity which comes from a family fight and not a lover fight which is easy to pick up on.  A clever pop song, with some really dark line to the music and some cathartic release. 

"100x" starts with a slow piano song, detailing a break up from the side of the person who wants the breakup to happen.  It stands out on this album, musically and lyrically.  It is a sombre number which does not need the up-tempo pop that has been the major component of this album.  There is regret in the way the breakup happened here, but the overall feeling I get from this song is relief and that it was needed for both of the people in the relationship to move on and change; it is a strange spot of calm in this album, but really it is a song where everything has changed forever.  "BWU" is a song about not needing marriage to validate a relationship, that the love is there and there is no need to have a wedding day.  Some people just are not into the idea of getting married, for some people it is enough just to be with the person they love.  This song is a perfect representation of that, with a declaration of love that does not need a white dress, rings and a first dance as each dance will be with love.  It is a medium paced pop number, reverting back to type a little bit musically with a strong message in the lyrics.  The penultimate song of the album is called "U-Turn" which was released alongside "Boyfriend" as the first taste of the album, which is a song about someone who has been told to either buck up their ideas or move on as they are not going to be catered for.  It is a shock to the system song, one where someone has realised that they are about to lose their most important thing in the world due to their abrupt nature.  I like this song a lot, it makes me smile due to the upbeat tempo of the music, the willingness for change at the heart of the song and the overall positivity of the song.  Sure, it is a little bit part of the course on the album but it is still a strong number.  Ending the album is "Hang On to The Night" which slowly the mood down with a song about not letting go, the night is usually when emotions are at their darkest and there is hope with the dawn.  It is an emotive place to end the album, dealing with the dark moments of the soul and that there is support out there in different forms.  Musically it is not winning it for me, the synths do not gel as well as they do on other songs, but the message is such a positive one that it is a song that is hard to ignore.

Ok, I will get the negatives out of the way first - musically there is not too much dynamics to the songs here, making a lot of these number merge into one so it loses a few marks for that.  The production by Greg Kurstin reminds me a lot of his other work, making it a little bit too similar to his work with Lily Allen, Sia, Adele, Years & Years as well as others.  It is a clean production, but it is one that has been the flavour of the charts for the last few years and it is starting to need a fresh dynamic.  However, the good points of the album outweigh these factors - Tegan & Sara have beautiful voices and the lyrics are beautiful little gems of hope, despair and love all mixed into one and never sound generic.  I can see why they have been gaining such a good reputation, the length of the songs never outstays their welcome, in fact this album is over in just over thirty minutes which is about right for a pop record.  It might not be one I would revisit too often or be as dark as other pop records I have owned, but there are more than enough moments on here to warrant further investigation of their previous albums and sometimes you need something to give contrast to the mostly metal musical world I seem to live in.

7 out of ten - This is good and worth checking out.

Top track - U-Turn

You can purchase Love You to Death on Amazon here

You can visit the Tegan & Sara website here

You can follow the activities of Tegan & Sara on Facebook here

You can stream Love You to Death on Deezer here

You can stream Love You to Death on Spotify here

You can stream Love You to Death on Tidal here

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