album review: tegan and sara – love you to death;

This review originally appeared on The Arts Desk.

Just over three years ago, I was swooning for this very site over Tegan and Sara’s masterful shift from indie rock to full-bodied, floor-filling, retro-inspired electropop. But as catchy and cathartic as that album, Heartthrob, was, ultimately it only hinted at the ability of the Quin twins to write an all-consuming, gigantic pop song. Their eighth album, Love You to Death, is the one on which the longest build in the history of modern pop finally breaks: that song is called “Boyfriend”, it’s a giddy rush of gender-bending sugar-spun queer-pop, and it deserves to be absolutely massive.

As, too, do its authors: Love You to Death may arrive in the glossiest of packaging (courtesy, once again, of producer Greg Kurstin, last seen storming the charts as the other half of the songwriting team behind Adele’s “Hello”), but that’s merely the gift wrap on two musicians who have spent the better part of 20 years perfecting their craft. This time around, Tegan and Sara’s heart-on-sleeve songwriting finds them as much the heartbreakers as the heartbroken (“you were someone I loved, then you were no-one at all” goes a line on piano-driven ballad “100x” that cuts like a knife) – and with their relationship with each other, as much as their romantic relationships, in their sights.

The twins’ voices, which blend together in a way which is positively otherworldly at points, seem made for this kind of music – album opener “That Girl” is a perfect case in point, at least until the obvious digital manipulation near the end of the song. Elsewhere, “Dying to Know” blends a relentless dance-pop rhythm with an open letter to an ex-love to unexpectedly create one of the catchiest songs on the album, while synth-driven megahits-in-the-making “Faint of Heart” and “U-Turn” demand to soundtrack your summer. “I didn’t want to be so invested,” the sisters sing just before very sexy album mid-point “Stop Desire” tumbles into a “like me, love me, need me” rush – you might as well give up and succumb to the near-relentless joy that is this album.

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