Sound — 7
Canadian pop duo Tegan and Sara have been making waves since their breakthrough album "So Jealous" from 2004, however to line the sisters in one particular direction or genre wouldn't be fitting. Not ones to shy away from adventurous stylistic exploration, Tegan and Sara have surpassed everything from indie rock to alternative rock and, most recently, new wave and synthpop through their previous two studio albums. It's an ongoing musical journey that retains relevance in pop culture and even attracted the attention of Neil Young, who signed the duo to his record label. It wasn't until as recent as 2013 as the group made a full fledged departure into the pop music scene with their seventh studio album "Heartthrob," which managed to maintain a sense of the band's identity while embracing influence from a variety of artists ranging from Rihanna and Erasure to Tom Petty and Ace of Base. Needless to say it was a commercial success especially in the band's homeland of Canada, which also led to the band's well received collaboration with The Lonely Island on "Everything is Awesome" from "The LEGO Movie" soundtrack, so to find a progression upon this same formula on the newly released follow-up "Love You to Death" isn't quite surprising as it is intriguing.
The album is obviously able to settle with the palettes of modern pop music advocates, yet there is still a strong emphasis on the actual musicianship in regard to the paired vocal melodies, lyrical execution and arrangements themselves. The opening track "That Girl" has a sort of 1990s pop character while recalling elements of the same breed of synthpop that brought Cyndi Lauper to her creative highs from the '80s. Supported by intermittent guitar work, the atmosphere is light on the ears, the refrain is an earworm, the harmonies are carefree and the end result is well crafted, without a doubt. "Faint of Heart" follows suit with a more upbeat and slightly more aggressive pop attitude, which breathes out into a whispered vocal refrain that is refreshing for the genre. "Boyfriend" is a bona fide anthem for the LGBT community, which Tegan and Sara have been public in supporting over the years. "You treat me like your boyfriend/ And trust me like a best friend/ You kiss me like your boyfriend/ But I don't wanna be your secret anymore" are repeated during the chorus and come across as nothing short of heartfelt. Not every song is a clear highlight here, however; "Dying to Know" isn't something that hasn't been heard on the airwaves in multiple different personas before, and yet when the album begins to lose momentum it's quick to pick back up with another raise-your-fists-and-yell arena anthem in "Stop Desire," a song that's bracketed entirely on blissful harmonies and a grooving synthesized core structure. "100x" is a piano ballad that maintains the band's shy nature while still portraying another side musically, while "U-Turn" keeps the lighthearted themes carrying strong with a few low riding bass lines sending each chorus back into the verse. The momentum is carried throughout the length of the record and it proves to be a more than worthwhile listen, proving that Tegan and Sara still remain confident in their ability to alternate genres while retaining a musical relevance.
Lyrics — 8
Tegan Quin and Sara Quin are able to craft harmonies and refrains that among the most standout in current pop music, which plays well when setting out to make a synthpop album ala "Love You to Death." The lyrics hold a bold relevance and the choruses leave the urge to crank up the radio to full blast, while still portraying a range of feelings from happiness to heartbreak. There's more of an adult, romanticized element at play here as well, which allows the record to stand in contrast to the world catalog of generic pop currently receiving around the clock airplay.
Overall Impression — 7
Tegan and Sara deliver a rowdy, reflective and intelligent presentation of well crafted mainstream synthpop with their seventh studio album "Love You to Death." It isn't incredibly common for a band to deliver a record that holds both relevance and a carefree character to it, which plays to the end result found throughout these ten tracks. Even with a few less bright moments, to call them missteps wouldn't be appropriate: it's a strong record from start to finish, and just a few notches away from complete pop bliss.