The dictionary definition of “heartthrob” is as follows: an object of infatuation. As a child growing up in the 1990s, my understanding of a heartthrob is best applied to the glossy posters of Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Devin Sawa that I ripped out of teen mags and taped to my walls. However, Tegan and Sara’s new album, Heartthrob fits the definition perfectly, since it has been an object of infatuation for me since I attached the iPod headphones to my ears for the first listen.
This is the seventh album for the twin sisters who hail from Calgary. They have been making albums for fourteen years now, and they are all wonderful, but this is the first one to receive any kind of identification from those who do not follow the indie music circuit. The first time I heard their single ‘Closer’, it was playing on Virgin Radio, a station known for its Top 40 roster, so I found it unusual. I had never heard any of their previous songs, such as a ‘Walking with the Ghost’ or ‘Living Room’ on mainstream music stations before. Furthermore, it sounded so unlike all of their other creations that I was additionally surprised to hear that it was a duo that I had been listening to for years.
Heartthrob is very different from its predecessors. You can recognize the distinctive vocals of the duo, but other than that, it is completely unexpected. Despite having heard ‘Closer’ hundreds of times before, when I purchased the album, I still expected the pianos, the acoustic guitars and the other string instruments on their previous releases. This was not the case. I heard a lot of techno pop and catchy hooks, carrying on the addictive quality of the first single. It has a 1980s vibe to it; sort of a neo-New Wave (Is that a thing?).
The awesome catchiness of ‘Closer’ sets the bar high, since it is the first single, and also the first track on the album. ‘Goodbye, Goodbye’ continues with the 1980s-infused dance pop, and this is when it becomes clear that Tegan and Sara are doing something completely different than before. It makes you appreciate them ever more as artists, because it shows how talented they truly are, displaying a keen understanding of a wide variety of musical genres. It makes me excited for their future activities in the music industry, for I have to wonder, which genre will they tackle next? In two or three years from now, will Tegan and Sara release an album full of Caribbean dance music?
The rest of the album is full of diamonds that encourage you to dance, but the subject matter is diverse. There are some romantic, heartfelt songs such as ‘Drove Me Wild’ and ‘Love They Say’, which are interspersed with songs bursting with angst and sass, like ‘I Was a Fool’ and ‘I Couldn’t Be Your Friend’. Appropriately, the album ends with ‘Shock to the System’, an excellent way to close the demonstration, since it “knocks your heart right out of sync”. It has a heavier dance beat, and some interesting sound effects, and when it is over, you want to listen again.
It certainly is a shock to the system, since it is such a delightful surprise from track one to track ten. Tegan and Sara have achieved greatness, since they have maintained the adoration of returning listeners like me, even though they went down a completely different musical path. I predict they will also gain a new following with this album, but whatever your allegiance is to T & S, old or new, this compilation is guaranteed to get your brain whirling, your excitement levels raised, and (dare I say it?) your heart throbbing.