Arist: Tegan and Sara
Album: The Con
Comments: I am not a very good looking guy. The most that can be said of me is that I am interesting looking. Besides being overweight, I’ve got a patchy, comical attempt at a beard, and a curly mess of long, thinning hair. I’m going to end up looking like the love child of Michael Moore and Doug Martsch before everything is said and done, and I am ok with that.
Being as I am on the ugly side of normal, I have always had a distrust of beautiful people. Sometimes it manifests itself into outright hatred (after a few drinks, I’ll be happy to tell that tanned, popped-collar-wearing gentleman how I feel about his frosted tips and pink shirt), and sometimes it will sneak up on me. For example, I have often felt suspicious of attractive women who talk to me, the fear being that they are just looking for a favor, or playing a cruel joke on me (not that beautiful women are knocking down my door, but stranger things have happened).
Personal insecurity aside, I will admit that I have had problems in the past because I assume that beautiful people have nothing to offer beyond their looks, a trait in myself that I don’t much care for. And I will also admit that when hearing about identical twin sisters Tegan and Sara, I thought that their music would either be bland tampon rock, or faux empowerment pop. However, after listening to The Con, I am pleased to report that T&S are much more than just a pretty faces.
The rap sheet on Tegan and Sara is pretty long, and kind of misleading depending on where you read it, so I’ll give you the facts that are pertinent to The Con. The twin duo started out doing folk rock, the kind of power chord, woman’s lib that makes Ani Difranco so popular. For recent albums, T&S dropped the chick rock and overt feminism for an electronic sound and more subtle, internal lyrics. The more restrained sound works on The Con, which was produced by Chris Walla (of Death Cab For Cutie, feelings-loving OC band de jour).
The Con is a relationship album at heart. Despite the bubbly beginning of “I Was Married”, the album treads some darker territory, especially on “The Con”, “Knife Going In”, and “Dark Came Soon”. The pair sings like salty veterans of one too many broken love affairs, and the music comes off with a personal sincerity that is both charming and disarming at the same time. T&S spend an entire album thinking about loss, redemption, love, hate, regret, and hope within the scope of finding someone. It’s the only topic, but its one that is covered well.
Still, the one note songwriting is forgiven by the production. For an electronica album with rock sensibility, the music is top notch. The synth lines in the music are reminiscent of mid 80s indie rock, or more tender Nine Inch Nails songs. It’s a good listen, never getting too outrageous and never lulling to sleep. However, that shouldn’t suggest that the music is bland or middle-of-the-road. Each track is layered and textured enough to make the songs interesting, although not always memorable. The only complaint I have about the album is that it can run together at times with no real breakout track, but for the most part it is able to define itself somewhere between rock and electronica without ever sounding like its borrowing too much from either.
The Con works, either as background music or as a listening piece. As background music, it’s a pleasant soundtrack to personal moments, but I wouldn’t play it at a party. As a listening piece, it serves as a personal deconstruction of relationships for anyone who had something not work out. Tegan and Sara won’t change your life, but they will mirror your life, which is as good as anything. If nothing else, it proves that beauty and brains aren’t exclusive, and gives my messenger-bag-wearing brethren something to lust for.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Key Tracks: The Con, Kinfe Going In, Dark Come Soon, Back In Your Head
Worth The Money: Yes