Tegan And Sara’s ‘Love You To Death’: Album Review

Stephen Sears | June 3, 2016 8:00 am
In 2013, Canadian sisters Tegan And Sara made a thrilling leap into the mainstream. Seven albums into their 18-year career, they recorded an essentially perfect pop album, Heartthrob. We loved it. The record combined the twins’ sugary-yet-spiked songwriting with L.A. producer Greg Kurstin‘s uncanny skill at recording tracks that sounded like 1984 radio without leaning into pastiche. Fans who loved it were quick to cry, “More please!”

Reunited with Kurstin for 10 more songs,Tegan And Sara’s Love You To Death (out today, ) attempts to extend the pleasure and take them to arena level highs. That’s a tall order.

The album begins promisingly with two fine mid-tempos.”That Girl” bursts from a simple verse into a big, shimmering chorus. No sonic shifts here, but the songcraft is tight. Still, there’s a certain irony to hearing them sing (on “Faint Of Heart”), “Everyone will say it’s dangerous to take this path,” when the album so clearly seems to follow the blueprint of Heartthrob.

Tegan recently told Idolator that their music is “not about sadness, it’s about reality. And reality is heartbreaking. It’s also really exciting to do that over poppy music!  It’s really cathartic.”

Whether that catharsis can be heard on the LYTD is a big question. The songs reveal themselves over multiple listens, but there’s a certain sameness to the three-minute song structures and arrangements. Tracks like “Dying To Know” and the ’80s-loving ballad “Hang Onto The Night” just don’t zing like they should.

LYTD is a more personal project, and that’s a good thing. The album’s heartbreaker ballad, “100x” plays like it’s for a former lover, but Sara recently told the press that it’s about her treatment of Tegan over the years: “It was wrong of me to hurt such a big part of you,” Similarly, “White Knuckles” seems to lurk in the darker recesses of the twins’ relationship, with its threat to “break that mirror in two.”

Tegan told Idolator that it’s “good to put yourself in a new scenario where you are pushed outside of your comfort zone.” And the duo have been honest in interviews about wanting to hit the next level in the pop game. The trick is that musicians can’t necessarily create to that goal. It’s just magic that happens. Tegan And Sara have talent and integrity in spades; LYTD is quality pop, though hopefully it’s the precursor to more daring risks ahead.

Score: 3.5/5

Stephen Sears