Let's call this the (first) surprise of the year.
Indie folk-pop strummers Tegan & Sara released an album last month dealing with matters of the heart --- and they got sassy while doing so. Very sassy. So sassy that it has polarized their long-standing fans of the duo, and has brought in annoying newcomer fans like myself who fell to the charms of what Heartthrob entails without first hand knowledge to their earlier more avant-garde beginnings. At this being their sixth album, and harboring a reputation for intellectual dreamy folk-pop, the Quin twins stepping into an 80's hi-NRG inspired guise is a daring move, but when first single, "Closer" crackles in, it's evident that the change of pace is a refreshing one that revitalizes them and expands their sound.
Packed in at just ten songs, not one minute is wasted on Heartthrob. They churn out one shimmering synth track after another, leading the end result to be a brisk, crisp, and sparkling collection that puts them in good company with acts like Florrie, Marina & The Diamonds,and fellow Canadians Dragonette. To carry this off, it is as if Tegan and Sara broke out the cleaning supplies and got on their hands and knees and scrubbed up all the little extra distractions and nuisances that clutter a majority of what is in Pop music today and got rid of it, wiped up all the artificial flavoring off, and got to what was underneath all along. So few pop artists do this now as they go for 'the louder, the junkier, the better' approach in order to mask mediocrity, that hearing this took me back at how effortless Pop music can sound. Even adding techniques and song structures of a by-gone era (it is like sooo Cali New Wave a la Missing Persons) is obvious, but the two had the sound mind not to bite off to the point of complete duplication. From this clean-up job, we get an album that is infectious, sincere, and deliciously introspective, with little to no banality in its fiber. Hooray, hurrah!
Many things are to like here aside from the superb "Closer", like the spirited "Goodbye, Goodbye", electric "Drove Me Wild", and the so-gonna-be-a-single, "I'm Not Your Hero". The rapturous ballad, "I Was A Fool" is my personal favorite, as tinkling pianos introduce it to its tender touch. Even as the album shifts into its second half, the guitar strums of "Love They Say" flow out along with the sparse soulfulness of "Now I'm All Messed Up" keep the album flowing down to its last drop.
So yes, Heartthrob pulses and pounds wonderfully in all of its 80's day-glo --- and I'm completely swept off my feet.
You can stream all of the goodness of Heartthrob over at the girls' Soundcloud page and its well worth the ride.