One of Canada's most prominent musical exports, Tegan & Sara return with their seventh studio album Heartthrob - and as was indicative of lead single 'Closer' upon its release last September, and the several preview tracks that surfaced in the interim, they've developed an even stronger penchant for synth-pop since 2009's Sainthood. With an illustrious career spanning over 13 years, Tegan & Sara's star has been continually on the rise since the release of their global breakthrough album So Jealous back in 2004 - The Con subsequently brought even more critical and commercial acclaim their way in 2007, and the aforementioned Sainthood cemented them as a serious musical force, picking up a nomination for the prestigious Polaris Prize in the process (the Canuck's equivalent of Ireland's Choice Music or the UK's Mercury Music Prize). The Quin Twins have further infiltrated the mainstream through regular sync placements with television juggernauts such as Grey's Anatomy and 90210, and collaborating with global superstar DJs Tiesto and David Guetta.
For Heartthrob, Tegan & Sara teamed up with Greg Kurstin, whose production credits include the names of such Planet Pop royalty as P!nk, Kelly Clarkson, Santigold, and Marina & The Diamonds. The result is a refreshingly vibrantly hook-laden 10-track album - sprightly synth-pop songs dealing simply with the not-so-simple themes of love and loss, and the unique vocal styling of the Quin sisters leading the charge. The ear-worm that is 'Closer' hasn't lost any of its appeal through widespread online coverage and radio play, and rightfully takes its place as album opener - with 'Goodbye Goodbye' hot on its heels as another likely chart-conquerer. 'I'm Not Your Hero' and its instantly catchy bridge-come-middle-eight is too a hit in waiting, with its programmed percussion and soaring guitar riffs that wouldn't be out of place in the mid-1980s; likewise the synth-laden sweet sentiments of 'Drove Me Wild'. 'How Come You Don't Want Me' and 'I Was A Fool' possess a power-ballad ethos that Bonnie Tyler would be proud of - particularly the latter, all angsty piano-driven melodies and fist-clenchy crooning. 'Now I'm All Messed Up', with its massive chorus, embraces a more modern sound to great effect, and 'Love They Say' brings all of the era-explorations together in one grandiose slice of anthemic pop.
Much as the Tegan & Sara purists may be appalled and dismiss it as somewhat as a 'concept album', the sonic stylings of Hearththrob are not the drastic deviation they've been made out to be - the Quin twins have constantly transcended genres and walked a fine line between indie and pop, it just so happens that with this outing they're leaning heavily towards the latter... and they've crafted a highly enjoyable album in doing so.
Review by Elaine Buckley