Sound: Tegan and Sara have attracted the attention of some heavyweights in the music industry, with everyone from Jack White to former Weezer bassist Matt Sharp covering songs written by the duo. With the identical twins' latest release The Con, listeners get a good indication what's behind all the intrigue. Most of the 14 songs on The Con are fairly unassuming, never relying on heavily distorted guitars or even that much of a rock element at all. Instead, Tegan and Sara have chosen to create more of a mood through elaborate, passionate vocals and subtle instrumentation underneath it all.
The first track I Was Married is a perfect example of the twins' musical style. You immediately hear Sara Quin's vocals, which bounce from being a high-pitched cry to a sweet, child-like whisper. The track is backed only by piano/keyboards (all played by Sara) and bass work from Matt Sharp. It's one of the slower tracks on the CD, but that's not to say that the rest of the album is your typical rock release. The majority of the songs have a more laid-back, moody feel that rely heavily on Tegan and Sara's vocals to relay the emotions.
The highlight of the CD is the title track, which utilizes everything in the band's arsenal. Sara and Tegan both help out on vocals on The Con, often doing rounds so that you've got several different vocal tracks occurring at the same time. It definitely has an alternative rock feel, and it features what sounds like a Moog keyboard (this time played by Tegan) backing up the guitars, bass, and drums. While the girls don't play drums or bass usually, they are still the sole songwriters. The Con is a fantastic example of the unusual arrangements that the girls come up with, and the fact that they do play half of the instruments on the song (and pretty much every other track) is all the more impressive.
For those who still need a harder sound to their music, Tegan and Sara might not be the best choice. The girls have a lot of power in their delivery, but it still has a pop-oriented feel to it. Even so, the girls come up with some beautiful melodies and harmonies that sound flawless, and that in itself can be pretty powerful. // 8
Lyrics: There are a lot of emotions running through Tegan and Sara, and usually love and heartache are the girls' main focus. The sisters both write the lyrics for The Con, and thankfully both of them have a knack of taking the familiar topic of love and giving a little spin on it. In Back In Your Head Sara sings, Remember when I was so strange and likeable? I just want back in your head; I'm not unfaithful but I stray. Most of the songs are confessionals with whomever the objection of affection may be, and it's pretty interesting to be let in on those conversations.
Much of the power from the lyrics comes from Tegan and Sara's vocal delivery. While the words might get a little too sappy or emotional for some, there's a passion in the way Tegan and Sara sing that allow the songs to never feel disingenuous. // 9
Overall Impression: While it seems like the pop-rock world has been bombarded by mediocre talent, Tegan and Sara represent the rare few who actually have the musical chops to back it up. While the duo sticks with a more benign fare of alternative rock tunes, they still have come up with some extremely likeable songs. The must-listen-to tracks on the records are The Con, Knife Going In, and Burn Your Life Down.
What will be the main problem for some is the lack of edginess and good old-fashioned power chords on The Con. There is a bit of musical exploration with other genres, however, and the song Are You Ten Years Ago even dabbles in electronica. The exploration never gets too extreme, but it doesn't necessarily need to. Tegan and Sara have enough going on in the songwriting department that it doesn't necessitate a full-on orchestra to make it interesting. // 8