Lesbian twins Tegan & Sara go for pop



Misic-logo-DWhen love hurts, weepy ballads seem the perfect fit — whether to listen to or to write. An angry beat sometimes helps as well, but a pop beat? Well, that’s a tricky road. And one Tegan & Sara navigate masterfully on their seventh release, Heartthrob. Heartbreak never sounded so good.

These twin sisters are never at a loss for clever lyricism but don’t come off as too cerebral. They craft smart, poignant words layered over distinctly guitar-based tunes, and it always works. But here, they venture into the world of glitzy synth-pop. They’ve never been far from it, but Heartthrob pulses with a different musical approach that remains distinctly T&S. That’s their magic.

“Closer,” the first single and album opener, sets the tone. They show no hesitation, thriving in a land of lush beats and keyboards. When they sing let’s make things physical / I won’t treat you like your typical, it’s instantly recognizable as T&S. It’s not just a strong beginning, but the first chapter in what plays like a narrative. Still, don’t expect high concept here.

This kind of pop isn’t new to the twins (in September, they teamed with dance maestro David Guetta), but this foray is gloriously unexpected. Heartthrob is wonderfully alive with brains and brawn. Keyboards are muscular and delicate; their pixie demeanors are great disguises for their monstrous talents marking their brilliance as artists.

This is definitive on “Drove Me Wild,” which comes out just in time for any Valentine’s Day mixtape — it’s sweet and sexy, with winning lyrics. These women can write a love song!

This CD fits snugly alongside the likes of One Direction, Taylor Swift and fun. — not bad company, but for these veterans, it feels strange, though perhaps it’s just a shrewd marketing move. The album isn’t expressly lesbian in nature — it swings both ways.

Where “Drove” puts a lover on a pedestal, “How Come You Don’t Want Me” is gutwrenching in dealing with worthlessness. T&S don’t let up, giving pain and anger a happy rhythm. They nail almost every insecure thought that happens within a relationship, belting out why don’t you wanna win me now / why don’t you wanna show me off and then follow up with someday soon, I will be the one who’ll insult you. It’s an astonishing moment in pop music.

Heartthrob’s 10 tracks ride an emotional roller coaster. Near the end, they let up slightly on “Now I’m All Messed Up” and “Shock To Your System,” but not much. They are still in full-fledged pop mode that recalls Missing Persons, but just a bit, because the album is decidedly Tegan and Sara … thankfully so.

— Rich Lopez

Four stars; available on Warner Records Jan. 29.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 25, 2013.