Tegan and Sara have created a mystifyingly absurd but extraordinary album.
Gemma Padley 2008
Much has been written about Tegan and Sara, and frequently the words 'pop' and 'music' creep in. The Canadian duo's last album, 2004's So Jealous, was packed full of pop-hook laden songs, perky and at times unnecessarily emotion-fuelled. This, their fifth studio album, retreats from frontline pop and explores more subtly murkier and coarse territory.
Produced by Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie), whose Death Cab influence sneaks in on more reflective tracks such as Soil Soil, The Con is a remarkable collection of songs that refuses to settle on one musical style. Tegan and Sara do not turn their backs on pop entirely. Single, Back In Your Head, with its childlike keyboard refrain is as carefree and fun as ever. But here playful tracks possess a wry knowingness; pop references are more considered and less earnest. Such non-descript tags as 'emo-core' and 'new-wave' seem no longer relevant.
The second single and title track has a Joseph Arthur/TV On The Radio epic quality while Floorplan with its Eels' God Damn Right (It's A Beautiful Day) laidback-feel is sunnily suave. The pitter-patter guitar riff in the verse of Relief Next To Me has a haphazard, cross-eyed feel and is delivered in a pleasingly nonsensical Spinto Band, Brown Boxes fashion. Central to the Tegan and Sara sound is the sharp forthright vocals. The duo's trademark claustrophobically intense harmonies and shrill tone evokes The Knife on the uncomfortable electro-underlined 'Are You Ten Years Ago.
Throughout The Con Tegan and Sara navigate a course that is both experimental and faithful to their pop music past. Alongside the lighter, less emotionally fraught leanings is a countering sharpness that cuts to the quick. With chameleonic deftness, Tegan and Sara have created a mystifyingly absurd but extraordinary album.