Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Tegan And Sara: The Con


Canadian pop-rock sisters Tegan And Sara improved steadily over their first four albums, transforming from copycat '80s addicts to songwriters capable of winsome pop confections like "Monday Monday Monday" and "I Bet It Stung." The duo's biggest weakness has always been repetitiveness; they frequently settle into the same bratty vocal cadence and danceable drone. Album number five, The Con, mostly overcomes that problem by displaying an almost Spoon-like fascination with defying conventional notions of rock rhythm, and by featuring songs that seem to go through at least three melodic changes before recycling.

On The Con's title track, for example, the Quin sisters sing in unison over an acoustic opening—Sara lagging a fraction behind Tegan, who wrote the song—and once the song breaks into an electric roar, it becomes clear that the vocals are a little off the beat. Eventually the song coheres over the chorus, in a moment of ecstatic release. Throughout The Con, songs like "Knife Going In" and "Like O, Like H" tick along like a room full of malfunctioning clocks, while Tegan And Sara follow their own swaggering pace.

Beneath the aggressive sound, both Quins maintain a sense of intimacy and personal exposure in their lyrics, right down to the final kiss-off song "Call It Off," in which Tegan tells her ex, "Maybe I would've been something you'd be good at." The Con is maybe too self-obsessed, and Tegan And Sara fall back into some bad habits in the middle of the record. But lyrical wallowing is almost a required element for this genre, and ultimately even The Con's failings work in its favor, providing a macro version of what the best Tegan And Sara songs do, by stumbling along recklessly, then falling together.