Tegan and Sara inspire confidence and excitement for new album and new era
Tegan and Sara
The Teragram Ballrom – Los Angeles, CA – 5.3.2016
Photo Credit: Kyle B. Smith | mxdwn.com
Due to the significant change in style in their latest album Heartthrob (2013), many Tegan and Sara fans, myself included, have waited for Love You To Death (LY2D) with nervous anticipation.
That anticipation was palpable Tuesday night inside the Teragram Ballroom. The small LA venue is known for its indie acts and intimate setting, and it was stop number two of four shows that Tegan and Sara are performing before their big release date. Fans and longtime confidants of the band members were gathered to witness a new era in Tegan and Sara lore be born. And they were not disappointed.
If there could be two words to describe this show, it would be unapologetic and cohesive. Cohesive is a strange word choice, so I’ll explain.
The show began with two acoustic numbers, “Call It Off” and “Now I’m All Messed Up.” Only Tegan and Sara’s voices, along with a lone guitar, echoed through the Teragram theater as the audience listened, enraptured, particularly with the second track. The Heartthrob track, already minimalistic for the synth-driven album it came from, was more raw and intimate than it’s ever sounded. Despite the fact that “Call It Off” and “Now I’m All Messed Up” come from two completely different eras in the band’s career, the two songs seemed to ride the same emotional wavelength. The rawness of the lyrics were emphasized by the stripped-down acoustic arrangement, making both songs sound like they could’ve been from the same album. The choice seemed like a move to disarm the audience. This new music still seemed to be our music. The blurred lines between the old and the new continued with new synth renditions of “Living Room” and “Walking with a Ghost.” The two songs were married perfectly to the new genre, sounding freshly inspired, almost as if they were originally written in the pop context.
Four songs from the new album made it into the night’s playlist: “Boyfriend,” “U-Turn,” “100x” and “Stop Desire.” What they all have in common is simplicity of lyrics, tight song structure, and a heavy use of 80’s inspired synth. But far from being surface level, each of these songs has a rawness and intensity of emotion and honesty that is a trademark for the sisters’ music. “Boyfriend,” the front running song on the album, is a bold declaration of love and a demand for recognition. Reviewers have compared it to songs like “I Kissed a Girl” and “Cool for the Summer,” saying that “Boyfriend” is the song that empowers and gives a voice to “the other girl.” Sara sings emphatically, “I don’t want to be your secret anymore.” Hearing this song live was particularly sentimental, because the majority of the fans there already knew it word for word. “U-Turn” and “Stop Desire,” two songs where Tegan sings lead, keep the energy high with strong percussion and visual, relatable lyrics. “Stop Desire” follows a similar theme to “Boyfriend” in its unapologetic declarations saying, “I tried, but you’re fuel for my fire / You can’t stop desire.” It’s certainly one of the band’s most sensual songs to date, and the vibe of the track is reminiscent of Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” a song the band has covered on multiple tours. “100x” is vastly different from the other three singles, with a stripped down piano track to accompany Sara’s moving, emotional lyrics. Sara has said in early interviews for the album’s release that the song chronicles her and Tegan’s strained relationship during The Con era of their career, where the band came very close to breaking up. Even during the stage performance, you could hear profound pain in Sara’s voice as she sings “I was someone you loved, then I was no one at all.”
Tegan and Sara, during their famous banters, commented multiple times on this acoustic era and their newfound direction. For them, this change in style was never really a change but a coming into their own. Sara joked, “We know you like it when we play just the two of us [acoustically], but we are able to still do this because we made records that were not like this. And it’s funny how sometimes you have to do something different [pop] in order to remember how good it feels to do something you actually had learned to really hate and despise.” For them, they are no longer forced to do acoustic for every song, they can choose when they want it and when they don’t. There is an artistic freedom that they’ve never had before that now allows them to fully explore themselves as musicians.
And that freedom was tangible in their performance. Tegan and Sara have never been more confidant, lyrically honest, and driven than they are now, and as a fan, that makes me more excited about their path and their plans than I’ve ever been. Tegan and Sara are not selling out, they’re just getting started.