Whatever indie cred Tegan and Sara Quin once had is tossed aside for the duo’s new “Heartthrob,” an unabashedly straightforward, major-label synth-pop album.
The 32-year-old Canadian twins are channeling the pop sound of their teens - the 1990s, if you don’t feel like doing the math - and even earlier. And their wide-eyed themes of all-encompassing love and infatuation have a distinctly teen-like feel to them, matching the naïve, often dance-oriented arrangements.
There’s no question this seventh studio album from Tegan and Sara is their most mainstream, considering their fitful history as alt-rockers, but it’s also potentially their most lucrative, even if the sugary songs ultimately chase off some fans.
“All I wanna get is … a little bit closer,” Tegan softly proclaims on infectious opening cut “Closer” before the electronic rhythm comes rolling in, carrying the two to a buoyant chorus as catchy as a Katy Perry confection.
The subsequent song, penned primarily by Sara, is the more empowering “Goodbye, Goodbye,” though the sisters are more likely to be victims to the whims of the heart elsewhere.
Shading their sound with elements of Missing Persons and Ace of Base – with a touch of solo Belinda Carlisle and modern-day Robyn – the Quins make observations like, “I was a fool for love” (on the glossy/dark “I Was a Fool”), ask questions such as, “Does your heart break when you think about me?” (on “I Couldn’t Be Your Friend”) and put it bluntly on the line with “How Come You Don’t Want Me.” Listeners might hear a trace of Vitamin C’s “Graduation (Friends Forever)” in the electro-motion of “Now I’m All Messed Up,” though the Quins are more torn up than reflective with defeated lines including, “Why won’t you just comfort me? … Go if you want, I can’t stop you.”
Closing track “Shock to Your System” is a heavy-grinding revelation for all of “Heartthrob”: “What you are, is lonely … You must rely on love once in a while to give you reason.”
Are those the words of a love-blinded adolescent or a clear-headed adult? Sometimes it’s hard to know the difference.
Regardless, they ring true.
Rating: 4 stars (out of five)
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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