The danceable, buzzy, ’80s-influenced pop-rock of Tegan & Sara has become increasingly common of late, thanks in part to fellow travelers like The Gossip and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. That means the Quin sisters may not get the credit they deserve for the way they construct and deconstruct songs. More than just a throwback act, Tegan & Sara have a lot in common with Spoon in the way they tug at the edges of classic girl-group pop and R&B, emphasizing rhythmic punch while keeping their melodies clean and lyrics memorable. True, there’s something faintly robotic to the approach—more so than ever on the duo’s sixth LP, Sainthood, which is more or less a copy of 2007’s superb The Con—but the songs are so well-tooled that it’s hard to hold their precision against them.
Consider Sainthood’s “Arrow,” which puts a staccato beat under the repeated image of an arrow’s feathers brushing by; the lyrics offer a straightforward expression of unrequited love, contained within a song packed with restless energy. Throughout Sainthood, Tegan & Sara invest small, relatable subjects—the embarrassment of unconscious gestures, the loneliness of sexual yearning—with the urgency of a teenage love-note. And after wallowing in romantic martyrdom for roughly half an hour, the Quins end Sainthood with “Sentimental Tune” and “Someday,” a rousing one-two finale that aspires to real joy. It’s another inside-out move for Tegan & Sara; they’ve pulled apart self-doubt and found the self-regard that lines it.