The sisters Quin serve up their usual bittersweet chunks and gobs of self-doubt. But like each of their albums, they tweak the ingredients and present something new. This time, they’ve created their most energetic album yet.
Tegan and Sara are Canadian twin songwriters who weave together indie pop, punk, '80s music, and dance. They incorporated a folk-rock sound previously, but their newest, Sainthood, is strongly post-punk/new wave. The sisters seem interested in exploring different instruments, synthesizers especially, and also different types of xylophones, strings, and recorders. In fact, one song “Alligator” features no guitars at all.
Sainthood is a heavier and quicker record. Not that their earlier projects were always soft and mellow. But sometimes, their music sounded good curling up on a sofa with a latte (I love lattes, by the way). The funky bass and pounding drums create an insistent urge to jump around even to the more pensive selections. I can imagine a circle pit forming to the chugging guitars of “Hell” and “Northshore.” The keyboard licks on “Alligator” and fuzzy guitar on “Paperback” could spark a dance party. It’s great to hear Tegan and Sara progressively add trickier playing with each release than just strumming their guitars. Interesting riffs include the bass playing on “Arrow” and “Nightwatch!”
I’ve been listening to Sainthood for less than a week and I’m already humming Tegan and Sara’s vocals. Both sing with a rhythmic style full of alliteration. Even though they’re identical twins, they showcase their own distinct qualities. Sara is the more nuanced twin, drawing syllables out into surprising patterns like in the song “On Directing.” Tegan is a little more conventional and often stuffs lots of words inside the beat. Consider this tongue-knotting line from the lead single “Hell:” “When we get up and over it and over them, up and over it and over them.”
This is the first Tegan and Sara album since If It Was You where I liked all the tracks. Sara’s ambiguous songs stick the most both lyrically and musically. My favorite song “Sentimental Tune” splices indie pop with country to describe someone determined to love through arguments and differences. Her closeness is palpable singing: “Watch, with a bit of friction I'll be under your clothes. With a bit of focus I'll be under your skin.” Unfortunately, Tegan’s lyrics feel less raw than on past albums focusing a little more on generating fist pumps than emotion. So what if Tegan and Sara commit a minor musical sin on Sainthood. They still shake you off your ass.
Grade: 4 and a half stars out of 5
Music video for "Hell:"