I’m completely sincere when I say thank you, Tegan and Sara Quin, for writing songs that make me feel like my heart has been ripped out of my chest and pounded into a pulp on the pavement.”
The Canadian twins have always had an uncanny knack for making everyday, universal heartaches (“I imagine you, body next to another,” Tegan repeats on “The Ocean”) seem particularly poignant and profound, and that trend continues on “Sainthood,” their sixth full-length album, released today.
Musically, “Sainthood” doesn’t live up to the last Tegan & Sara album, 2007’s exceptional “The Con,” but the sisters continue their unparalleled lyrical examination of personal shortcomings, especially in relation to unrequited love.
The album’s title, culled from the Leonard Cohen lyric “I practiced all my sainthood / I gave to one and all / But the rumors of my virtue / They moved her not at all,” refers, according to the sisters, to their practice of being on their best behavior in the pursuit of relationships.
“All I said to you / All I did for you / Seems so silly to me now,” Tegan sings on “The Cure,” while Sara, on “Alligator,” promises herself, “No hissy fits / Mind my manners / Won’t make a scene / Oh, over you.”
Release Date: October 27, 2009
From the jarring opening chords of the Sara-penned “Arrow” to Tegan’s hard-hitting “Northshore,” it’s clear that “Sainthood” is a musical leap for the duo. Sara, the quirkier of the two in terms of songwriting, penned the majority of the songs on “Sainthood,” and it shows. Tegan, meanwhile, seems to have absorbed the style of punk artists like Against Me! and AFI’s Hunter Burgan (who co-wrote three of the songs on “Sainthood”) she’s recently collaborated with.
Glaringly omitted from the record are tender acoustic ballads that were strong points on “The Con” and 2004’s “So Jealous.” Bonus track “Light Up,” Sara’s gorgeous homage to her mother, falls into this category, but though it’s included on the iTunes version of the album, it’s regrettable that it wasn’t included on the regular version (though, in fairness, it likely would have felt out of place).
With most of the 13 songs clocking in under three minutes, some feel unfinished, or even that they never had the chance to truly get off the ground in the first place. Album closer “Someday” seems particularly (and surprisingly) directionless.
At 29, the twins aren’t afraid to mock their own adolescent yearnings (“I know it turns you off when I get talkin’ like a teen,” Sara pines on the stellar “On Directing.”) Tegan & Sara joke that they are “committed to obsessively seek and discuss love until the end of time,” but all kidding aside, it’s a dialogue in which everyone can find solace.
Tegan & Sara play the Calvin Theatre in Northampton on February 12, 2010 and The Orpheum in Boston on February 13.