I almost missed the boat on Tegan and Sara. I decided to check out 2004's So Jealous after reading a review of it on this site, only to have my mother call me a week later and tell me about this great new band called Tegan and Sara she had heard onā?¦"Grey's Anatomy." Ouch. Sorry, punk cred. It turns out the twin sister act are not new at all, and have been turning out folky pop tunes since 1999. Over time their sound has evolved and expanded, now including layers of glossy electric guitars and keyboards to accompany the delicate acoustics that still form the backbone of most the songs on their new record, The Con.
Each sister has a unique songwriting style, with Sara veering towards complex, lush arrangements and Tegan sticking with more traditional rock structures and acoustic numbers. The result is an album that maintains a strong sense of variety through its brief 37-minute running time. There are distinct themes to the record as well. Sara writes mainly about her experiences of settling into a routine life and trading in freedom for stability. In the opening track, "I Was Married," she muses on the topic of married life and gay marriage in general, and the homophobia that persists in Canada and the United States.
Meanwhile, Tegan is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Her songs deal with the restlessness of being in your mid-20s and still struggling to find your place in the world. In "Soil, Soil," she explains: "Oh, and I'm feeling directionless, yes, but that's to be expected and I know that best." "Are You Ten Years Ago," a standout keyboard and moog-driven song with rapid, overlapping vocals is about mentally and emotionally reverting to an earlier time in your life, feeling like personal growth only leads you around in circles. Throughout the record, the women remain incredibly intimate with their lyrics (in "Knife Going In," Sara mentions her partner by name) and don't shy away from expressing the highs and lows of love.
Helping in this recording is an impressive list of punk rock / indie heavyweights. The Con was produced by Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie, and features Jason McGerr (also of DCFC) on drums. Sara had Matt Sharp of Weezer / the Rentals play bass on her songs, while Tegan enlisted Hunter Burgan of AFI for hers.
Thanks to prominent placement on the previously mentioned popular medical drama and a high-profile cover of their song "Walking with a Ghost" by the White Stripes, the band has seen an enormous increase in profile since their last release in 2004. This attention has been well-deserved. For all the labels that get attached to Tegan and Sara, one aspect of their craft is never overshadowed: They are fantastic songwriters. The Con is a rock-solid offering from a band that has only gotten better with each release.