Tegan and Sara offer more pop drama on Love You To Death

Love You To DeathAgainst the odds, Tegan and Sara kind of rule the world now. Jack Antonoff, the guy from fun. and co-writer for the likes of Taylor Swift, recently described the phenomenon: "You would go into the studio with an artist and you'd be like, 'What are you into lately?'" he says. "And they'd be like, Heartthrob. What kinda vibe do you wanna do? Heartthrob." Now the Quins are reunited with pop genius Greg Kurstin (AdeleSia, countless others), are they about to go stratospheric with 8th album Love You To Death?

If they are, it's difficult to say where the mercurial twins could take it next. This is route one, end-of-level pop drama, where the choruses are launched rather than performed, laser-guided missiles packed with equal parts gunpowder and MDMA. (Honestly, if I was having a tough week at work, and the car had broken down again, and my wife had left me, I would be slipping out to do bumps of "Faint of Heart" in the bathroom stalls, and I kind of think they might get me through the day.) Opening track "That Girl" actually sounds like Hudson Mohawke in places. The danger is that the maximalist production will completely swallow the songs themselves, and on tracks such as this one and "Stop Desire", that becomes an unfortunate reality.

Like any high, it's hard to sustain the rush. "100X" aims for a pace-breaking ballad, but the clunky lyrics let it down: if you'd asked me to come up with a generic Tegan & Sara line that might appeaer on the album, "I went crazy thinking I was wrong, like a fool holding on too long" could reasonably have been one of my guesses. It's a shame, because elsewhere on the record, we get some of the most personal writing of their career. Lead single "Boyfriend" refers to Sara's girlfriend of five years, who was still dating a man when they started seeing each other, while "B/W/U" also talks openly about gay relationships: "I don't need a white wedding... all the girls I'd loved before told me they'd signed up for more." It's strange to think that in 2016, even with artists like Years & Years, Sam Smith, and Frank Ocean singing about non-heteronormative sexuality, there are practically no pop songs that dare to wield gendered pronouns in the way Tegan & Sara have done so confidently on this record.

Part of what keeps me coming back to Heartthrob is that I know it builds to a killer finale. But where "Now I'm All Messed Up" and "Shock To Your System" formed the best 1-2 finish of any album I could care to name from the last decade, Love You To Death limps to a close with the tepid "Hang On To The Night". Perhaps the comparison is unfair. This is still an exceptional album, proving that the Quins remain head and shoulders above their contemporaries. But after a second record of songs about minds being lost, tongues being tied, and hearts beating out of chests, I feel like maybe we should start seeing other popstars.

Release: 3rd June 2016, Vapor Records


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