By Nathan Ma, Staff Writer
Can someone please define the phrase “independent music” for me? ‘Cause all I know is that it took exactly one album cycle for the dudes in Tame Impala to start hocking BlackBerrys, and just last week I found myself hopelessly coming up with a list of Black Keys’ songs that haven’t been used to soundtrack ad space for either a sports car or cheesy bread. Clearly, it’s time for our indie-heroes to find more interesting ways of selling out.
Fortunately enough, the Canadian song-writing twins known as Tegan and Sara are forthcoming about their intentions on the duo’s new album Heartthrob. They want power-pop supremacy with the likes of Pink and Katy Perry, without the diminishing returns from collaborations with Dr. Luke, and they’ve got the sleek, electropop sonics to back their quest. The sisters are trading bedroom glom for stadium stomp, and surprisingly enough, the shift suits them just fine, sounding refreshed and vital in the most unlikely of sound-scapes.
Album opener and lead single “Closer” is the first aha! moment and an absolute killer of a track. The synths simply explode out of the gate, setting up singers Tegan and Sara Quin for a massive pop chorus that’s as confident in delivery as it is just plain fun. The song is pop gold, encapsulating the dizzying excitement of burgeoning romance in three-and-a-half joyous minutes.
What’s most impressive about Heartthrob is the consistency with which Tegan and Sara deliver the goods. “I Was a Fool” treads familiar thematic ground about doomed relationships, but the twins still manage to extract drama when trading lines like “But stand still is all I did/Love like ours is never fixed.” Even better is break-up anthem “Now I’m All Messed Up,” a power ballad that manages to capture the despondency of heartbreak with almost uncomfortable clarity. The sisters reach Breeders-esque levels of sibling synchronicity during the chorus as they wail, “Go!/ Go if you want, I can’t stop you.” You can almost picture them crumpled in a corner.
For some long-time fans of the band, the sudden shift may prove too much change at once. Pity for them, because the record is genuine work from two ambitious songwriters looking to expand their audience on their own terms. On Heartthrob, Tegan and Sara declare their musical independence, crafting a slick pop record that’s packed with hooks and wildly emotional.