Tegan and Sara: Sainthood

You know, the sisters Quin have earned themselves a big honour in Canada for their most recent effort – they’ve been nominated for the Canadian version of the Mercury Prize, which is no mean feat because, you know, it’s Canada we’re talking about. There’s too many brilliant bands in Canada. So don’t turn your nose up.

But hey, this is an indie-rock record that doesn’t grate or get repetitive after a while. Tegan and Sara have managed to ruffle together a collection of indie-rock songs that aren’t at all boring. It’s some kind of wonderful miracle! It must be something to do with the fact that this record is actually really free-sounding and not strained in any way. There’s no point where you start to wonder if tracks have been inserted as fillers. Most songs last little over a couple of minutes, so to be an album of any length, rather than just a slightly more fleshy EP, surely the twins must have just flung in some B-sides to make up the numbers.

Prepare to be surprised! Opening track “Arrow” emits a good deal of urgent, meaningful malice that is underpinned with a stabbing, screeching guitar and pounding, slightly off-beat drum rolls. It’s a real statement: to kick off the album with such a forceful song really shows you what Tegan and Sara are aiming for. It quickly drifts into “Don’t Rush”, a more conventional but still wonderful highlight on the record. Here we can see the differences in Tegan and Sara’s voices and it helps to chop away what might have become monotonous. While one has a more classic rock voice, as expressed on “Don’t Rush”, the other’s is more ethereal (which makes “Arrow” all the more creepier).

“Hell” is one of my favourite songs on the record: it’s a three-minute blast of punky guitars, the loud-quiet-loud sensibility and rousing chanting with a slightly tongue-twisting chorus and enough youthful energy to keep anyone happy. Things do get a bit quieter and more laid-back at times, although these tracks are still wonderful and provide a nice breather between some of the more high-octane tracks.

It’s not all rock and roll with the album though. There are also some more synthy moments that show off the versatility of Tegan and Sara. Still, these moments never seem out of place. “Night Watch” is a cleverly crafted staccato held together by the smoothness of the vocals. If that doesn’t sound awfully promising, trust me: you will be thinking of the twilight hours when you hear that slightly haunting opening synthesiser. However, undoubtedly the triumph of this whole record is in the surprise shape of a piano-led anti-ballad. “Alligator” seems as sweet as some sticky toffee on top of triple-chocolate ice cream but underneath there is a strangely demonic underbelly that erases that ever-so-slightly off-key and clunky piano and the butter-wouldn’t-melt tone of the vocals. Just listen to the lyrics. Then you’ll get it.

I was pleased that I bought this album off the strength of just the one song a couple of weeks ago. I’d always known Tegan and Sara were around but I’d never quite clicked on to how good they were. “Sainthood” is well worth a punt as it offers a little something for everyone. And who knows, maybe it’ll restore some of your faith in indie-rock!

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