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Tegan and Sara Track Reviews

Under Feet Like Ours (1999)

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Divided B+

“This is my candy corn!” (Yes, I actually listen to these albums...) I am also going to mention right here that I'll probably be giving all these songs roughly the same score. This is a good example of an album where it's difficult to write unique descriptions of all the songs. That is because they are all well-written, they are well-sung, they are well-produced, and they aren't so distinctive from one another. So here I go: This song is a simple acoustic-guitar led one; for the most part they strum four chords throughout and don't introduce any other instrument. In a way they didn't need to due to their stylistic and theatrical singing style. The lyrics are, I guess, a slice of life about living cheap and loose and looking to their future. Which is appropriate for these guys.

Our Trees B+

The instrumentation is a little more elaborate than the norm here. That is to say there is a drum loop, as well as some processing effects on the background vocals. The melody is quite good... it has a verses section and a chorus that's reasonably catchy. The vocals are even better, really belting it passionately at appropriate points. Certainly a competent and well composed song that makes a good listen but I do have a hard time remembering it after it's done playing. Lots of people praise these early Tegan and Sara songs for their lyrics... these ones are about urbanization I think. They're OK.

Come On B

This is instrumented once again with an acoustic guitar and a few melodic contributions from an electric one. Nothing too special. The melody I don't think is especially catchy, although I do like the middle sections of this which do manage to pick up some real steam. But as a whole, the song is plagued with just being forgettable ... even the lyrics, which I'm guessing are rather cryptic and are probably written about someone I've never met.

Freedom A-

This is my vote for the best song of the album; it is short (just a little over two minutes), with a furiously strummed acoustic guitar and furious singing to match. The melody is once again strong enough to capture my interest, although not especially strong enough that it remains in my head. The lyrics are fine, even though once again I don't really understand what they are about. Probably another person I never met.

Proud B+

Here is another reasonably good song that features a strong melody, very strong (passionate) vocals with a certain sense of style and verve, and fine lyrics. (This one seems to be about gaining a sense of self-worth.) Yep, like everything else in this album, it's makes a good listen ... but very little of it seems to stick to me.

More For Me A-

Maybe this is tied with “Freedom” for the best song of the album. Maybe the melody is a bit weaker, but it still has its moments. It's the lyrics that speak to me here a little more. They remind me of being in my early 20s and coming to the full realization that I needed to become a responsible citizen. The instrumentation here is simple again, though that's a fine thing: Acoustic guitar mainly with a few contributions of piano and a few rattles of some kind of percussion instrument.

Hype B

This song has so many words that it doesn't seem like there's enough music to contain it. But even then, there's an attractive chorus section that captures a bit of a foothold...though it doesn't last long and it goes right back to the rapid-tongue words. So what is the song about? I think it's a metaphor about love.

Clever Meals B

This is a piano ballad and unfortunately a rather dull one that--like another song from this album--seems a little too wordy. Although the melody takes a few interesting turns here and there, particularly at the end when it starts to build up. ...So I guess even when it seems I'm going to be completely unimpressed with a song on this album, it does something to capture my attention.

This is Everything B+

This doesn't start out so exciting... more of that stylistic singing over a simple chord progression played mainly by a piano. But eventually the rhythm guitar and drums build up and turns the song into something you can tap your toe to, as Tegan's singing becomes an impassioned plea. Despite all that the song doesn't affect me the way I think it should, but it's way too good for me to want to dismiss.

Heavy B+

This one has a little bit of a Latin tinge to it, with the way the guitar is strummed, which is pretty cool, but don't forget that the whole point of that is to be background to the stylistic singing. Again the melody isn't strong enough to pop out at me or linger with me, but it's also far too interesting for me to get bored with. The lyrics, again, are very well written but they don't connect to me.

Welcome Home B

This is a nice and simple acoustic guitar ballad with a somber cello (I guess) providing some depth in the background. The melody once again takes a few interesting twists in here but the whole point of the song appears to be the stylistic and impassioned vocal performance. The lyrics are about looking for love and being sad.

Superstar B

I would say this is the most memorable song from the album, even though that might not be for the best reasons... It starts out as kind of a drone that I don't like listening to much... but then by the end, it turns into a frenzy and I start to like it. It starts with an acoustic guitar playing lightly while a deep synthesizer plays long, sustained notes with a thumpy drum machine. The drum machine does change its rhythm throughout the piece to keep things lively. The singing is once again the best feature--stylistic and playful, with some creative overdubbing.

Bye!! N/A

The album began with a very rough recording of a girl talking about candy corn, and now here is a recording of the girl saying "Bye!!" (Haha, did Tegan and Sara unearth old recordings of themselves? This has to be them.)

This Business of Art (2000)

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The First B+

Continue on with the Ani DiFranco comparisons if you like. Its rapid-fire, super-stylized vocals in the verses section is delivered almost like a rap sometimes. But then it’s instrumented primarily with rapid and bright acoustic guitars. There is some driving, wobbling low-pitched synths and a bust drum kit that helps make this energetic and something you might tap your foot to. I’m not so impressed with the verses (and I did read the lyrics but they don’t mean much to me) but the song does manage to take flight briefly during its highly-energized chorus.

Proud B+

The reason this song seems so familiar is that it was also included in their debut. As it was there, this is a mature and nicely written ‘pop-folk’ tune that anyone was coming up with back then. Maybe theirs is a little better, since there is some real juice and verve behind its driving rhythm. This is a very well-written and polished song. The melody is OK, but it doesn’t stick with me all that well. It makes for a reasonably enjoyable listening experience, anyway.

Frozen B+

Is this going to be a “B+” album all the way through? Maybe. Stylistically, this is another rapidly sung song. (Their vocals of course are dazzling, but it does mean their voices aren’t singing a melody.) The rapidly strummed acoustic guitar isn’t here, rather it’s replaced with an electric guitar. Part-way through, the song is accompanied by a relatively heavy and driving bass and drum combo. (Going into the song even further, they decorate it with a synth loop as well.) Again, I enjoy listening to this.

Hype B+

I only gave this a ‘B’ in their debut. I’m not too consistent, I guess. Actually, the chorus is striking me pretty nicely this time, even if the chorus doesn’t seem to occupy too much time, and some of the singing otherwise latches onto a nice hook or so. The groove isn’t infectious, but I can find myself tapping my foot to it. I like the synthesizer embellishments in the middle of the song—it’s just something in the background, but it shows they were interested in tinkering with their arrangements a bit to distinguish their songs.

My Number B+

I’m just going to give all these songs a “B+” I don’t even care anymore. This one actually seems somewhat more like the songs they would start putting out later—even though it starts out sounding like one of those Ani-DiFranco-esque folk-rapping things. But after about a minute of that, the song starts to swell up, and they start to sing a rather compelling and powerful chorus. Still I can’t quite bring myself to love this song, but I think it’s a nice song, and I enjoy it well enough.

All You Got A-

OK, time to break the B+ monotony. I like the melody of this song throughout and not only during the chorus, or anything. And there’s something phenomenal about Sara’s large, confident vocal performance…she doesn’t seem to be projecting emotion of any kind—it isn’t angry or happy. It’s just large, flashy and fun to listen to. (I am not actually able to tell these twins’ vocals apart; I just noticed that Sara was given the songwriting credit, so I figured that was her singing.)

Freedom A-

I liked the version that appeared on their debut album, but this version starts with a wailing harmonica. It then turns into a rather driving rock song, whereas the original sounded more like a scrappy folk song. I really can’t tell which version I like better. And I really don’t think it matters enough for me to expend energy trying to figure that out. Also, I didn’t notice in the original song the bass-line and main-riff was so catchy. So catchy, I kind of wish they didn’t phase that out midway through the song.

Not With You B+

It’s kind of strange, I listen to this song and I get hints of those distinctive, twisty melodies that I would fall in love with so easily in their later albums, but I can’t quite get this song to latch onto me. (Although one moment, as the rapidly-sung verses section transitions into what I suppose is a middle-eight at the two-minute mark makes gives me shivers up my spine. I can’t tell what it is about it exactly that makes me do this.)

More for Me A-

One thing that Tegan and Sara would get better at is melodies, but another thing is lyrics. Although both of those are quite strong here for my money. The melody, and the rapid-fire vocals, and the stylistic vocal embellishments used throughout the song. Really, it’s kind of amazing they knew how to nail that at this very early point of their career. The lyrics, which I commented on the earlier version of this song, takes me right back to my early 20s when I was strapped for cash and worked these crappy minimum wage jobs. Oh, those days.

Come On B

Tegan and Sara are nothing if they’re not consistent. There’s nothing in particular that bores me about this song—but those little things I delight in some of their previous songs, such as an interesting melodic twist, or a fun synth embellishment aren’t here so much. The vocals are nice again, but that’s just another product of these guys being so consistent. (A version of this song also appeared on their debut … seems I also thought it was relatively forgettable there too.)

Superstar B

This song also appeared on their debut, but I didn’t find it so forgettable. In fact, this is probably the most distinctive song they had in their repertoire at this point. …And it’s a song I definitely have to appreciate for its uniqueness—in that it utilizes something that sounds like a dance-club beat, but the instrumentation evolves quite a bit—at some points using sharp, pop-punk style electric guitars. The lyrics are quasi-rapped, but they continue to do that in such a stylized fashion (at some points whispering), that it’s impossible for me to ignore it. I mean, I wouldn’t say there’s so much emotion in their vocal performance—it’s just entertaining to listen to. But I also don’t find anything especially infectious about this.

If It Was You (2002)

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Time Running A

Whoa. We can finally forget the Ani DiFranco comparisons. Not that I’ve listened to the entire DiFranco catalog, but I feel fairly confident she never did a rockin’ song like this. Tegan and Sara amp up the crunchy electric guitars and come out with a bouncy and remarkably catchy riff. I mean, the riff is so neat sounding. Joan Jett didn’t even come out with (original) stuff like this. Also, wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll supposed to have run out of good riffs in 1985? Their vocal melody is also infectious, and their spirited vocal performance that’s also supplied with hearty cheers, helps makes this fun. Also, it’s only two minutes long—so brief relatively speaking, and yet it seems like a lot happens.

You Went Away A

This is another rockin’ song. Actually barely less than two minutes time, but it honestly seems to last longer than that considering how much they do with it. A song like this remind me of The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, since it rocks, it’s brief, it takes unpredictable twists and turns, and it is infectious. Well, OK, maybe not as infectious as The Beatles, but still, this is candy to my ears.

Monday, Monday, Monday A+

This song also rocks, but its tempo is more moderate, and it is as delightful as ever. The guitar texture they come up with, while I wouldn’t call it particularly innovative, they do create a pretty haze. I also like how they suddenly shift the texture at the 1:30-minute mark. Best of all, the vocal melody is remarkably catchy, even something worthy of singing along with it. Beautiful song.

City Girl B+

They may be pointing back to their Lilith Fair roots here, as they favor a strummed acoustic guitar here to the rockin’ electric sound they’d adopted in the previous three songs. While the song doesn’t blow me away, it still seems to float a mile above anything in their previous two albums, because they come up with a melody that is great to hear. I mean, I could actually sing along to this—no more of that quasi-folk-rap.

Not Tonight B+

This is another nifty pop song. It features a bouncy acoustic guitar riff and crunchy drums. It makes a pleasant listen and I like the vocal melody, but again it doesn’t blow me away. (Sorry, I don’t to seem dismissive of the song, but this is all I can think of to say about it.)

Underwater A

This song starts out like it could have been on their previous album, as it features Sara (I think) singing to a strummed acoustic guitar. But then at 20 seconds, a drum beat, bass guitar and some jangle guitar come in...and things suddenly get brighter! Oh, and things get even brighter for the chorus. The soaring, glorious chorus. You know how many songs I listen to with choruses that don’t catch fire? Too many. This is assuredly not one of them.

I Hear Noises A

Whoa, here’s another bright song. That is even though the lyrics seem quite the opposite (“So I flip on the television / And watch sad movies / And look for sad sick people like me”.) They amp up the electric guitars again, creating a crunchy texture that gives my ears plenty to pick up upon. But the star of the show is the melody, which is wonderful. It has a distinct verses section, a chorus, and there is even a middle-eight. (Bands that can stuff all that into a three-and-a-half-minute song are experts in my book.) Also, I particularly like their vocal performances in this—their phrasing intrigues me and there is a whole lot of personality. I mean, they don’t show off at all and actually come off like real people.

Living Room A+

I gave other songs in this album an A+, but count this as a super-A+. If I had to make a playlist of 1,000 songs, and these would be the only songs I could listen to between now and the end of time, this song would surely be on it. This song is catchy. And it’s also kind of peculiar for them, since it can be characterized as a bluegrass stomp. …I’ve not mentioned Tegan and Sara’s lyrics a whole lot in this review, simply because this isn’t really an album I listen to for the lyrics. (Not that the lyrics aren’t fine, generally speaking.) However, these ones really jump out at me. Actually, they’re kind of creepy, since it’s about how the narrator becomes obsessed with watching someone through their window. (”My windows look into your living room / I spend the afternoon on top of you / I wonder what it is / That I did to make you move in / Across away from me / I hope I never figure out / Who broke your heart / And if I do, if I do / I’d spend all night losing sleep / I’d spend the night and I’d lose my mind”) The chorus is so catchy, I’m pretty sure I wanted to sing along with it the first time I ever heard it.

Terrible Storm A+

These guys are on fire, and it doesn’t seem to stop! This one starts with some darkly strumming electric guitar (as if they’re trying to recreate what an oncoming terrible storm might sound like). And then the chorus comes in like a whoosh! And then check out that extended instrumental outro! It sounds so epic, like it’s—er—Pink Floyd or something. And the song is only three and a half minutes long. It seems like so much happens in so little time.

And Darling [This Thing That Broke My Heart A-

This is an acoustic folk song that would seem to be more closely tied, stylistically speaking, to their first two albums. But notice how hooky their melody is. So something must have happened overnight to prompt Tegan and Sara to take a more melodic approach to their songwriting.

Want to Be Bad A

It just doesn’t end! This is a rather anthemic song, characterized by heavily textured guitars and a pitter-pat style drum rhythm. But they really sell this during the chorus when they call out I just want to be baaaaad. Their vocals are fantastic, which sounds particularly great here, since the melody is catchy.

Don’t Confess A

I like that this song is mid-tempo, has kind of a lumbering beat, and yet I enjoy this about as much as anything else on this album. Slower songs like this on average albums seems to just pass me by, but this one has such a beautiful melody, and the vocal performance just seems so genuine. The lyrics, while I wouldn’t exactly call them great poetry, seem to be about consoling somebody after they’d gotten their heart broken, and hearing them singing about it, I truly believe they mean it. I don’t run across singers to often who do that.

All reviews are written by Michael Lawrence.