Music Review: Tegan and Sara’s “Heartthrob”


Buying new music can be a huge risk, especially when it is from an artist you have loved since their very first album. Tegan and Sara are a band that I have loved since This Business of Art was released in 2000. I heard it on my community radio station, and suddenly everything changed. I had been listening to queer music for a long time, but this album was different. It normalized queer relationships for me in a way that most music didn’t, by just being about love and break-ups and everything in between — gendered pronouns optional.

As artists, Tegan and Sara have grown and evolved in amazing ways. Identical twins from Western Canada, they started making music at a young age and immediately exploded into the scene with a following that was massive and also cult-like. I knew they were releasing a 2013 album, but hesitated to listen. What if their sound was too different, too normal? They’ve definitely attracted a new level of audience, one that is significantly younger than me. What if it was all pop music and fluff?

Then they announced their tour dates, and happened to be coming to Madison. On a Sunday night. And I couldn’t resist the siren call — I had to go and check out the music for myself.

It was everything I hoped for. And more.

A crash course in love and heartbreak, mashed up with 80s dance sounds and incredible guitar riffs, and featuring a MOOG on several tracks… The show was an incredible sensory experience, filled with beautiful people dancing to beautiful music and an amazing light show, complete with projections on the backdrop that included black and white photography, old newspaper classifieds, and images torn from magazines. Sometimes being at a concert when you haven’t heard the most recent album can be daunting, but in this case, Tegan and Sara caused me to fall in love with them all over again.

They’ve become my new Heartthrob.

I brought a date to the concert. It was a stretch for me, for a new romance. Maybe Tegan and Sara would be too queer? Not queer enough? Too pop, too dance, not enough of anything? Sharing the music that defines us, the music we return to again and again can be scary, especially in a new relationship (whether it is dating, friendship, or anything in between).

But when we take that risk, share the songs and albums and artists that have been the soundtrack to our lives, we show parts of our heart that go beyond any words we could conjure.

The music that we hold close is the music that defines us, and also can destroy us.

In an instant, a song can take us from laughing to weeping to screaming to fighting back. For me, Tegan and Sara do all those things, often at once. This new album is no exception. If you want to dance your ass off, sing at the top of your lungs, and remember all the times you fell in love (the good and the bad), get it. Now.

And then go see them on tour.

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