Tegan and Sara - Heartthrob (Cover Artwork)

Tegan and Sara

Tegan and Sara: HeartthrobHeartthrob (2013)
Warner Bros.

Reviewer Rating: 3.5
User Rating:

Contributed by: BryneBryne
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Tegan and Sara wrote an unabashedly mainstream pop record in Heartthrob. Their indie rock and punk roots, which remained present over the years even as the duo's music became more accessible, have completely left the picture. (For those scoring at home, the best amalgamation of T+S' underground root.
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Tegan and Sara wrote an unabashedly mainstream pop record in Heartthrob. Their indie rock and punk roots, which remained present over the years even as the duo's music became more accessible, have completely left the picture. (For those scoring at home, the best amalgamation of T+S' underground roots and pop tendencies was 2007's The Con. It's also their best album overall.) The question is: Will anyone care? Will their passionate fanbase, large by most measurements but smaller by a mainstream barometer, follow them down this path, or will they exit, feeling alienated by this new direction? Will new fans, music consumers who get their tunes from the radio, television commercials and the like, welcome them with open arms? What's the endgame here?

As far as the actual music on Heartthrob goes, it's mostly solid when one factors in intent. It's clear Tegan and Sara set out to make a pop record, and it succeeds in that realm. The club-ready hooks in songs like "Closer," "Goodbye, Goodbye" and "I Couldn't Be Your Friend" are undeniable, if a bit standard in their execution: They all rely heavily on canned, electronic-sounding percussion and plenty of synthy sounds, with a craftsmanship that's decidedly commercially influenced. Still, a good pop song is a good pop song; it's hard to imagine anyone walking away from these offended, at least.

In other areas though, the duo struggle to inject personality into songs that desperately need it in order to stand out from the crowd. "I Was A Fool" features a piano part that, in some iteration, seems like it's been part of twenty other radio hits before it. Same for the acoustic guitar and vocal melodies in "So They Say," and some of the lyrics ("You don't need to wonder / If love will make us stronger / There's nothing love can't do") are too cloying, even for this type of music. Tegan and Sara just don't quite exude enough personality into these with their distinct voices; for the first time in their career, they seem to be playing down to the competition.

That's not to say all the ballads on Heartthrob fall short. "How Come You Don't Want Me," co-written by Jack Antonoff of fun., is that extremely sad song full of emotional longing that T+S have perfected over the years, just through a poppier lense and without all the restraint. "I'm Not Your Hero" blows out its chorus rather impressively from the verses with some neat, alternated instrumentation.

It'll be interesting to see how Heartthrob plays among Tegan and Sara's fanbase, and to the masses for that matter. It seems to cater more to the latter than the former, and while that's not an inherently bad thing, it certainly could backfire and end up as the outlier in their discography. For now, call it a calculated risk that mostly works.


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
elliot (February 4, 2013)

I don't want bands to make the same record over and over either, but I also don't want them to make a record that compromises musical creativity for a cash grab.

Sliced-T (February 4, 2013)

This record sounds like tween pop you'd hear in a movie theatre lobby. It stinks.

sleepwalker (February 2, 2013)

Been listening to this all week and I love it. Not crazy about "I Was a Fool", but otherwise this is a great record. It doesn't sound like The Con(or any of their other albums), but so what? I don't want to bands making the same album over and over again...

thisrespirator (January 30, 2013)

The Con is one of my favorite records ever, but I think that it's cool that they've gone in this direction. I'm on my first listen right now and I have to say it's nice to be able to listen to pop music that's not completely devoid of talent or emotion.

daveyjones (January 30, 2013)

really, really digging this album.

Deadpan (January 30, 2013)

The last album was flat out terrible, and on reflection, only about half of the tracks on The Con were any good as well. Should I even bother with this?

salvador (January 30, 2013)

haven't heard the record in its entirety yet, just a few tracks here and there. The songs are catchy, and I'm not super suprised they went this direction, after sainthood. I loved the Con (deff my fav) but this like some of ALk3's other records are something different for the fans. new things they're trying and to see what works and what doesn't. Maybe they'll do another indie/folk record, maybe they won't. Still love them.

that_band_changed_my_life (January 29, 2013)

so stoked

telegraphrocks (January 29, 2013)

I think I like it a bit more than "Sainthood", but not by much.
Doesn't touch "The Con" or "So Jealous" though.

oldpunkerforever (January 29, 2013)

couple of gems on here, does not touch The Con however, their peak-oldpunker-

danperrone (January 29, 2013)

i like the new sound, but it gets a bit tired halfway through the record. maybe it's just top heavy. the first few tracks are all pretty solid though.

thepopeofchili-town (January 29, 2013)

I like this record a lot. "I was a Fool" is probably my favorite at the moment. I can't see how anyone's surprised by this direction after Sainthood.

nickvicious (January 29, 2013)

Haven't heard the record, yet but this review makes me concerned. I love the indie and acoustic songs. That's what put 'em on the map. And the Con is hands down their best record. One of my favorite albums of the last decade.

mightybombjack (January 29, 2013)

for everyone complaining about the lack of guitar and "indie sound," you know in between their next album and the album that follows that, they'll quietly back peddle and release the heartthrob guitar demos album. so you can finally hear the songs the way they were "originally written." but by then i'm sure everyone will complain that it's too little too late and that bridge has already been burnt. and now you just can't imagine the songs without that cool dance pop sound. and how truly amazing this record really is. it will be the dear you or the weird revolution of the tegan and sara catalogue. i haven't heard the record but i'm looking forward to it. i like when bands i enjoy throw a curve ball and do something a little different. you already have "indie guitar rock" albums by tegan and sara. how many more of those type records do you really want to hear by them? not too many bands can pull off putting out the same album every couple years.

danwazz (January 29, 2013)

Album is solid. Catchy songs and hooks that get stuck in your head. I just wasn't aware that Synth Pop was still a sound bands were interested in. I think this album would have been a bigger hit in 2003.

givemeamuseumandillfillit (January 29, 2013)

I tuned out at "underground roots".
I liked the silly AFI b-sides from the last record.

mikexdude (January 29, 2013)

Sainthood is my favorite T-S record. I think I really like this one too, probably more than the Con, besides a couple of classic songs from The Con. Some of their best written songs underneath the production,

melissap79 (January 29, 2013)

Tegan & Sara fans are a little too loyal..I'm a fan..I think they used to have really great music, but this album is not something I will hold on to. They are saying goodbye to fans that don't want to go down this path, but most of their fans are far too loyal to ever leave this band they love so much. It's really sad. These girls inspired so many to learn how to play the guitar and you can't even hardly hear one being used on this album..They sold out for what might be a total flop. I'm not sure the world is ready (sadly) for twin lesbians who are slightly awkward in the eyes of most. They are wearing tons of makeup while promoting this album, they can pretend this is the new them all they want and that they have "grown up" but they can't possibly think this is a good album. Fans who have a mind of their own won't jusp at the chance to go see them live or buy their merch..they will have to depend on the Katy Perry and Perez Hilton to promote them from now on. Pop eaters have no interest in who these women are *maybe that's what they want..too much pressure being a "hero" , truth is they are flashy enough for the pop world. I wish them the best of luck, but I will not be lining up anytime soon to hear these tracks live. RIP Tegan and Sara. Heartthrob equals heartbreak for me.

exitenglish1208 (January 29, 2013)

i agree that the con is their best album, but i fucking love this album. every song is super catchy, and while i miss the indei/punk aspects of their songs not infrequently, more often than not the songs distract me enough to be great by themselves. it's very reminiscent of robyn, of whom i am a fan, but this is better, so i was hooked from the first listen. listening to it right now and the piano in "i was a fool" is so great. amazing album.

ReelBigMike (January 28, 2013)

I agree with virtually everything said in this review except the score; all things considered I'd say 2.5 instead of 3.5. It's definitely a 100% straight-up pop/synth-pop album. Any hint of folky, indie, or rock sounds are simply gone. But they've been slowly heading in that direction since 2004 so it shouldn't really be a surprise to anyone. That being said, it's an ok record...it just happens to be an ok POP record. The only stand out tracks for me are "I'm Not Your Hero" and "Drove Me Wild." There's no total misses, but the second half of this relatively short album falls pretty flat. It's clearly not what they were going for, but I feel like this album could've been much improved with a little more guitar and way less synth.

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