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Everything is (Pretty Darn) Awesome in Tegan and Sara’s ‘Love You to Death’

| Wednesday, August 31, 2016

web sarah and teganJimmy Kemper | The Observer

Canadian indie pop duo Tegan and Sara have been working to craft the soft alternative soundtrack to every girl’s teenage drama and subsequent nostalgia since the performers were fifteen years old. But from the moment the identical twins picked up a guitar and started a band without a drummer or bass player, their music carried with it a unique sound and catchy, clever lyrics that resonated with an even larger audience.

Although relatively unknown outside of the indie scene for years, the pair rose to popularity with progressively glossier albums, a Grammy win and the performance of the theme song “Everything is Awesome” for “The Lego Movie,” produced in collaboration with The Lonely Island.

Tegan and Sara’s newest album, “Love You to Death,” is the logical next step in their evolution — a nonstop jam session filled with angsty yet largely bouncy electro-pop tunes that range from ballads to upbeat hits. The album offers no surprises, but its predictability is by no means disappointing.

“Love You to Death,” released June 2016, continues in the same vein as the pair’s 2013 “Heartthrob,” replete with electronic, synth-driven songs and supremely relatable lyrics. If anything, the new release is smoother, with the songs more controlled than the 2013 release.

The only thing not to love about “Love You to Death” is that the tracks tend to blend together. Tegan and Sara’s mellow voices offer gentle crooning and authoritative sass (sometimes at the same time), but never venture into belting or anything other than very measured emotion. While it makes for a cohesive listening experience, the album’s continuity may come off as sameness to some listeners.

A few tracks do break out of the mold, though, whether through excellent lyrics or interesting beats. “Boyfriend,” the lead single released in April, speaks to the frustration and confusion inherent in a will-they-won’t-they relationship in which one person doesn’t seem to know what she wants. The song is one of two on the album to speak to same-sex relationships — Tegan and Sara are both out, but their songs tend to avoid using specific pronouns. “Dying to Know” is an anthem for anyone still hung up on an ex while “100x” offers an interesting look into the feelings behind what happens when you simply can’t stay with your beau: “You were someone I loved/Then you were no one at all” laments the bridge.

The album also offers a visual experience: Tegan and Sara plan to release a music video for each song in the coming months. The videos that have already been released include a stunning black and white presentation of “White Knuckles,” featuring Tegan and Sara mourning in a forest and an animated video created by “Bojack Horseman” production designer and producer Lisa Hanawalt accompanying “Hang on to the Night.”

Taken as a whole, “Love You to Death” is an easy listening experience tailor-made for missing a significant other — or trying to get over one. While the duo’s initial edgy, unique sound may have softened under the pressures of contemporary pop music, “Love You to Death” remains intrinsically Tegan and Sara, and therefore worth many listens. 

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Shamrocks: 4/5

Favorite songs: “Dying to Know,” “100x,” “BWU”

If you like: The Chainsmokers, Chvrches, Foster The People

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