Reviews Tegan and Sara The Con

Tegan and Sara

The Con

What is it about Canada? You know, Due South, The Arcade Fire, Bret “The Hitman” Hart, Dan Aykroyd, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Terrance & Philip. Perhaps it’s merely been a case of overwhelming ignorance, but lately it seems that all of the best things in the world originated in this faraway place. Last summer whilst sitting in a friend’s bedroom rifling through his CDs, I found a disc he’d just bought by a Canadian sister-sister duo called Tegan and Sara. I’d never heard of them before and, after a fleeting once-over, blissfully placed the CD into the ‘I don’t care about these albums’ pile. That was the last I saw of Tegan and Sara, until very recently, with the release of The Con making them, conversely, the one thing that I find myself having all the time in the world for.

There’s really nothing not to like about Tegan and Sara. They’re funny, they’re pretty, they have that likeable ‘neighborhood kids’ quality, but most fortunately for this particular address, both are fantastically talented musicians. Most noticeably, both women have distinctive and wholly extraordinary voices – Tegan’s decidedly more mature sound recalling the strength of Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker, and Sara’s voice having a distinctive charisma all of its own. A particularly noticeable excerpt, “Knife Going In” is a snapshot of cool, choruses dominated by Sara’s vocals, alternating between childlike bluntness and acute intensity. It makes me feel gooey inside, yet nonetheless tends to throw me when the tone of her heart is so unexpectedly revealed within.

It is Tegan, however, who steals the show in terms of impact. The girls’ voices are somewhat analogous to the individual tracks that each has written and sings lead vocals upon, and Tegan’s “Nineteen,” is a harsh reminiscence of erstwhile chapters and things that might have been; a song that both reads and sounds like the tumultuously blank end of adolescence.

Tucked away at the tail end of the album is “Dark Come Soon,” one of the The Con’s most satisfying and vocally-inspired tracks, although it is perhaps overshadowed by the devastating finalé of “Call it Off” with its crippling refrain of “Maybe I would have been something you'd be good at.” Both tracks are personal highlights, although mid-album killer “Soil, Soil” is also a surprising curiosity of a song; honest, brilliantly executed and the perfect stage-setter for the more upbeat “Burn Your Life Down.”

The best part about all of these songs is that despite their variety, they don’t rely solely upon their choruses, gimmicky individuality, or any other form of anticipation. It’s never going to be exclusively a case of “I love that one part of the song where the guitar does this.” Each has its own mesmerizing way of throttling its listener throughout.

The Con is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. It’s short and sweet, a guitar-driven pop record, but looking under the covers for just a moment it becomes clear that there lies a thick bank of shadow. Not that it ever loses sight of itself; I would never go so far as to call any of these songs particularly hopeless, harrowing or even dark. As an album, The Con neither thunders nor trundles, remaining a cohesive series of pristine three-minute pop songs to the very end.

Despite it being all I’ve been listening to over the past couple of months, The Con has hardly turned into a summer album for me – the sound isn’t that of nostalgia or sentiment; its effects are more grounded than that. Either way, the daydreams that it inspires are not quite as inconsequential. It affects people in a wonderful way, a contagion as much as it is an inspiration. The Quinn sisters have a great deal of surly attitude and from this comes an indisputable likeability, and again this is one of youth and playfulness as much as it is one of unspoken, out-of-control, head-to-the-wall, world-destroying emotions.

The Con isn’t all smiles but it’s the biggest breath of fresh air I’ve tasted in a long while. You will want your friends to hear these songs, although perhaps not as much as you’ll want to keep them all to yourself - this is your world being described.

9.5 / 10M.J.
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