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 Ill explain.

The show began with two acoustic numbers, “Call It Off” and “Now Im All Messed Up.” Only Tegan and Saras 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 its ever sounded. Despite the fact that “Call It Off” and “Now Im All Messed Up” come from two completely different eras in the bands 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 couldve 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 nights 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 80s 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 sistersmusic. “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 dont 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 youre fuel for my fire / You cant stop desire.Its certainly one of the bands most sensual songs to date, and the vibe of the track is reminiscent of Springsteens “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 Saras moving, emotional lyrics. Sara has said in early interviews for the albums release that the song chronicles her and Tegans 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 Saras 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 its 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 dont. There is an artistic freedom that theyve 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 Ive ever been. Tegan and Sara are not selling out, theyre just getting started.