2013’s Heartthrob was far from typical for Tegan and Sara and pop music in general.
2013’s Heartthrob, Tegan and Sara’s seventh studio album, is a record about love: the pain, the pleasure, the passion, and the perseverance of it all. When the duo started teasing the album in the Fall of 2012 by releasing early singles “Closer” and “I’m Not Your Hero”, one could feel their devoted fanbase divide into two camps: those that loved the Quin sisters embrace of slick synths and punchy pop, and those left disenchanted and displeased that their alt-indie-rock heroes’ sound had moved closer to the mainstream than ever before.
In hindsight, though, fans who honestly found Heartthrob a massive shift in sound and style probably hadn’t been paying close enough attention to Tegan and Sara. On the band’s last three albums, 2004’s So Jealous, The Con from 2007, and 2009’s Sainthood, Tegan and Sara ping-ponged between anthemic, pop-leaning indie-folk through moodier, textured atmospheric production, and stripped-down, go-for-the-gusto songwriting. Heartthrob is essentially a crystallization of all Tegan and Sara’s many-faceted musical personalities up to that point.
The mantra “I won’t treat you like your typical” is repeated throughout opener “Closer”, and could easily be a line addressing their fanbase, referencing their approach to songwriting and record production or one directed at each other. It’s always been tough to pin down a clear description of what a “typical” Tegan and Sara song sounds like beyond saying that it’ll have flawless harmonies, humble, confessional lyrics, and an acute understanding of dramatic tension. Whether set against the backdrop of coffee house strumming or nightclub-ready thumping beats is a moot point: Heartthrob‘s ten songs speak for themselves. Like the women who wrote them, not one song is clichéd, contrived, or complacent.