H E A R T T H R O B – Tegan and Sara
BONUS – I RUN EMPTY
Sophy says: I Run Empty was the first stand-out track of the album for me, and Rin’s and my Rophy status was confirmed for the eleventyth time when it was the same for her. After the first couple of listens we both kind of put this track on repeat and just wallowed in it like pigs in a Tegan and Sara trough. And it wasn’t funny wallowing. I cried, you guys. I mean I cried and cried. And I can’t help wishing this track hadn’t been a bonus, but the actual album-ender. I’m going to talk about this below, but I guess having grown up with Tegan and Sara, I see their discography as kind of a story about growing up. And the melancholy-yet-reserved refrain in this song about how you can’t be certain of anything when you’re young? I find that a lot true and a little bit haunting.
This song feels haunting. It feels like it was written for a ghost.
I count steps and sockets in the wall to avoid the sound of your feet missing in the hall
I’M SORRY BUT? I DON’T KNOW HOW TO LIVE IN THIS WORLD IF THESE ARE THE LYRICS?
Rin says: This was my IMMEDIATE favourite. And whilst I completely agree that I wish this was included as a track track rather than a bonus track, I always feel like Shock To Your System is the perfect way to end the album too. And I don’t know how to choose between two perfect endings and is there such a thing and I don’t know my brain hurts. Although I think the main reason I want this to be included in the album is so more people will hear it and give it the love it deserves. I do find it hilarious that we’re both all ‘WHY WHY WHY’ about it being a bonus track, and here we are including it in our list as a …bonus track. Oh Rophy.
Out of all their new songs, I feel like this is the one most reminiscent of what came before and I don’t just mean because of the guitars. It’s got the kind of heartwrenching angst that niggles at your core that gives me The Con-type feelings.
Don’t think I didn’t deserve what I got
Don’t think I didn’t deserve what I lost
Basically, if you guys haven’t heard the 2 bonus tracks I strongly suggest you fix that now. ‘Guilty As Charged’ is also really great, and honestly the only reason it wasn’t included in this list is because I Run Empty cuts deeper. Again, we were in tears over this song you guys, and I know that hardly means anything these days seeing as we are 90% of the time in tears anyway. But…..WHATEVER JUST LISTEN.
10. LOVE THEY SAY
Sophy says: At first when I heard this track I thought ‘Oh my god, guitars!’ and there was this rush of feeling like home… but you know what I realized? I really didn’t need the guitars anymore. Not after everything that had come before without them and that would follow after without them. And I guess that’s the thing for me. Love They Say, feels, in some ways, like a nod to the stripped-back band Tegan and Sara used to be, and I’m not sure the album needed any nods. I think I would actually have loved this song more if it had had an arrangement that was more in keeping with the rest of the album. And not just because it would have fit better – also because it would have fit this song better. Love They Say is probably the most earnestly sweet thing Tegan and Sara have ever produced. I feel like that sweetness would have been better served without the gooey strumming.
But I’m nitpicking. And by the time we get to the chorus I am feeling it. Especially “You don’t need to worry, this love will make us worthy.” Guh.
Having said that, probably the main reason this song is low on the list for me is that there’s this one thing that niggles at me about it that is totally not Tegan and Sara’s fault. There’s this little backing vocal that goes “You don’t have to worry!” and every time it reminds me of this bit in the Covert Affairs theme song. You know the bit I mean. Or if you didn’t, you’ve gone and listened, and you do now?
If so… sorry.
Rin says: You are a horrible human being for comparing a Tegan and Sara song to the RIDICULOUSNESS of that theme song. Covert Affairs is a good time, but there has probably never been a more embarrassing theme song in the history of the world..and yeah. Ruined.
CAN YOU SAVEEE MEEEEE?!
BUT NO. It hasn’t ruined the song at all for me. The way I feel about Love They Say is this…
If it came on in a place where you don’t normally hear Tegan and Sara, like say on the radio? It would be the best song playing on the radio by far. But if I’m listening to Heartthrob? ..I might skip it sometimes. And oh my god, it hurts my soul to admit something like that, it’s not that I don’t like it — it’s just one of those songs that you have to be in the mood for. It’s not a repeater for me, which is totally fine! Right? …yes this whole paragraph is me trying to convince myself that I’m not a bad person for not ranking this higher. BUT SOMEONE HAD TO BE TENTH. YOU TRY IT. It’s like trying to rank puppies in order of….WHO SHOULD BE KICKED FIRST. Honestly, it’s that horrible.
And I hate to say anything bad about them, I do. I’m a stan god damnit. But… this song doesn’t move around too much. It pretty much stays on the same level throughout, and there isn’t much undulation, so even in background listening it comes off as a bit one note. And also the lyrics.. I know what Tegan was trying to achieve. I KNOW. But.. compared to some of the things she’s written in the past? It pales. Tegan has again and again told us a million different things about love in beautiful new lights, and really.. what they say? It doesn’t compare to what you say Tegan! It just doesn’t.
But Sophy’s right. The line about love making them worthy. Winning lyric for sure.
9. I’M NOT YOUR HERO
Sophy says: This is probably my least favourite track of the album – so far – I do tend to go in phases with Tegan and Sara songs until I’ve exhausted them all with my adoration. But really, if this is your least favourite track on album, that’s how you know it’s a darn good album.
And god, you know that growing up theme I mentioned earlier? Here it is again, in full bloom. “Hanging onto parts of me, hanging on at all, I was used to seeing no future in my sight line.”
This song is kind of interesting in that it is explicitly addressing the concerns of fans who feel they’ve been let down by what Tegan and Sara have grown into. It’s kind of a commentary on what the album stands for, an apology to people who feel let down by it, and yet an affirmation that these songs are an expression of Tegan and Sara’s authentic selves. And you know what? I guess I just don’t feel like it was necessary. There is nothing to explain. There is nothing to justify.
I prefer to look at the song as a more generalized ode to the misunderstood, as a chronicle of all of our struggles to be who we are and let go of that child-like drive to satisfy others with who they think we should be. I prefer to look at it as a salute to growing up. And this line, in particular, sticks with me:
I’m not your hero but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t brave.
Rin says: Oh my god, this was not my choice. IT WASN’T MY CHOICE. How is this number 9?!?! Why couldn’t we just make everything number 1.
I had never really thought of that other side of the song, of it being something from t&s to the fans. It’s interesting. I love reading about other peoples interpretations of songs.. unless they’re really infuriating. But that makes sense. It totally does.
I’ve always seen it as a song about …’self-loathing’ seems pretty harsh, but yeah, self-loathing. Having someone put you up on that pedestal but being unable to feel anything of what they’re seeing. Just unable to make that connection. And then somehow finding a way to be less critical, and loving yourself a bit more. Overcoming insecurities.
Which is why I think this is my favourite lyric of the song:
Feeling like I am now, lighting up the hall
I love that. I LOVE IT. It makes me happy and hopeful and feel like that’s how everyone should be able to feel. Purposeful and proud.
If you haven’t listened to the acoustic session they did with this song, dear lord. Your life is about to change.
Sophy says: MY LIFE DID CHANGE. If that version was on the album this song would probably be at number 3. I’m not going to go and look at what is actually at number 3 because I will just become confused and upset.
Rin is right tbh, we should have just made them all #1. But already felt sort of self-indulgent doing a top ten for an album of ten songs.
WHATEVER IT’S TEGAN AND SARA IT’S APPROPRIATE.
And another thing, I heard this song this morning playing in a fancy, girly-girl, very mainstream dress shop this morning in Perth, Western Australia. It just made me smile. YOU CONQUER THE WORLD, TEGAN AND SARA. DO IT DO IT DO IT.
8. I WAS A FOOL
Sophy says: I Was A Fool is one of the preview songs Rin and I actually let ourselves listen to a few times, so when the album came out we perhaps weren’t giving it quite the love it deserves – because we’d already loved all over it previously.
This is another song that, like Love They Say, stands out from the rest on account of its instrumentation. The very traditional piano intro is kind of a surprise after the two tracks that come before, and the whole thing is just very mellow and laid-back compared to those tracks too.
And these lines…
I stood still, it’s what I did
Love like ours is never fixed.
Guh. Fixed is one of my favourite words on account of its dual meaning and I really like how that is in play here. Because on the one hand you get this idea of a love that can never be repaired – never be resolved – never be made right – never be what it’s “supposed” to be. And then on the other hand you get this idea of love as transient – even transformative, maybe, for the person being saved. But the person sticking around, behaving, standing still? They get left behind. Because the love isn’t fixed in time.
And god I love the bridge in this song – or I guess the second bridge? The bit after the If you’re worried that I might have changed part, when Tegan and Sara sing the lead-in to the chorus slower and quieter. What should I be calling that? Rin, help me out? Anyway, it’s vintage Tegan and Sara to me, with Sara’s echoed vocals coming in above Tegan’s. I got quite a frisson the first time I heard that part of the song and it kind of made me feel like I was home even more than the guitars on Love They Say. That’s what I love about this album – there’s a lot that’s new – but there’s still enough that’s old that you don’t feel completely at sea.
Rin says: Um um um? It’s the pre-chorus? BUT YEAH. A PRE-CHORUS DIFFERENT FROM THE REST. It’s also my favourite part of the song. I LOVE IT WHEN THEY ECHO FOR EACH OTHER Every night I echo’d you
But stand still is all I did
And I’m starting to worry that all the lyrics we’re point out are going to be more revealing about us more than anything.. BUT THAT’S OKAY! Because Tegan and Sara do that to you. They know how to connect to their audience, and that’s what makes them one of those bands that you can’t just really listen to in passing. At least I’ve never come across a fan that isn’t really a fan, you know? Well I’m not counting that one time I went to a festival and literally everyone else was in jean shorts and a bra. BUT THAT’S OKAY!
This is such a Tegan song in the way that she’s the hopeless romantic of the two. Oh Tegan, we know. And it’s kind of my favourite thing about her? I like that even though she’s happily in a relationship, she can still write these songs that are probably about when she was younger and had a foolish heart. And it is inline with what Sophy has been saying is the theme of the album — growing up. And suddenly I feel like we’re back in our Skins 5 days and how that was the theme and BUT THAT’S OKAY!
I think it shows growth to be able to write a song about how you were a fool for love, but not have it be bitter or seeming embarrassed about it. I also appreciate that it’s not about closing yourself off to love either, because I think Tegan probably still has a foolish heart. The song just comes across more as a wistful sigh to me than a song about being stupid when you’re young.
7. DROVE ME WILD
Sophy says: When Rin and I put our proposed lists together for the order we were going to rank these songs in, we were pretty much on the same page – the only things we were sure of were the top and bottom two – everything else was a glorious blob of sameness in the middle. There was only one thing Rin objected to about my list and that was that I had Drove Me Wild at number 8. It was too low, she said. And you know what? She was right.
In my glorious blobness I had failed to give this track the respect it deserves. And how could I be so crass? Because?
You carried romance in the palm of your hand.
That was probably my first stand-out lyric of the album. I remember cruelly taunting Rin with it via tweets when she hadn’t heard the track yet, because that’s the kind of person I am.
I love how this song starts with a bang. And I love the slinky, high tease of the opening lyrics. I love the rousing chorus. I love it all.
Rin says: I STILL THINK IT’S TOO LOW!!! For me it comes above Goodbye, Goodbye, BUT THAT’S OKAY!
I freaking love this song, I think it’s such a.. it’s a rocking jam? And I never say jam. But it feels like a jam. You can definitely here the 80s influence on this record, but none moreso than in this song. It almost has a Cyndi Lauper vibe to it, and that’s pretty awesome. When I first heard the song my eyes just BULGED because it was like being hit with a wave of new sound that I’d never heard before from Tegan and Sara. And it shook me and surprised me… and then I fell in love. This song is so happy and uplifting that it makes for a wonderful change. It’s not like all of their other songs make me want to curl up into a ball and die (a lot of them do), because they are uplifting in the way where you feel like you’re not alone, and music has the power to get you through anything. They’re freaking food to our souls. It’s just that this? This is joyful.
SINCE WHEN ARE TEGAN AND SARA JOYFUL?
And you know? I fucking adore them for it. I really do. All the haters need to get over themselves and their bullshit close-mindedness. Music is art, and art evolves and is ever-changing. I’m not saying Heartthrob has to be your favourite album, but you shouldn’t just pan it because you don’t like the way there are no guitars. Give it a decent chance.
….um. I had a bit of a rage blackout at the thought of the haters. My apologies.
Romance/palm of your hand. Best.
You clung to self restraint you followed the plan
You put the brakes on this
This song is also the perfect car song. Funnily enough.
Sophy says: Omg you loser. And if you wanted this above Goodbye, Goodbye, you could have put it above Goodbye, Goodbye. YOU PICKED THE FINAL ORDER, STOP TRYING TO PUT THIS ALL ON ME.
6. GOODBYE, GOODBYE
Sophy says: I love everything about this song except for the fact that there’s a chord right at the start that sounds exactly like a car horn, and it’s made me slam on the break twice whilst driving and listening to this album. DANGEROUS.
What I really enjoy about this song is how each segment is more enjoyable than the last. It starts out and I’m like, okay, this is pretty, I like this. And then the ‘I can’t stand this’ part comes in and I’m like, yeahhhh, this is rockin’. Then the big Goodbye, Goodbyes! burst out like fireworks and just when I’m oohing and ahhing over them there’s the best part which is the plaintive yet matter-of-face You never really knew me bit.
Which, Tegan is right, that’s pretty harsh Sara. But I respect you for it.
Rin says: I was going to comment on your driving, until I realised that you were once in the car with me when I made a very illegal u-turn on a very busy road. So, nevermind.
You are so right. This song is like fireworks. AND NO, NOT THE KATY PERRY SONG. Actual fireworks. Sydney should co-ordinate this years NYE fireworks to this song. ‘WOW! The Best NYE ever,’ said Earth.
I absolutely adore the way Sara sounds in this, especially with the ‘never really knew me’ parts.
I think these might be the best drums of the album. Really. If you haven’t already, listen to this song and just listen to the drums and dance. That’s another thing about this album, isn’t it? I’ve never wanted to dance so much in my life to a bunch of Tegan and Sara songs. The next time we see them live (AT THE OPERA HOUSE BOO-YAH… did I just say ‘boo-yah?’ Yeah I did) is going to be an interesting experience. Every other time I’ve seen them it’s kind of been like.. a head bopping show with very important hands-above-head clapping. But that’s probably all going to change when they’re playing songs from Heartthrob. I think it’s also one of the first times, besides some of their collab work, where it could actually pass as party music without a bunch of people staring at you and wondering why you want to bum everyone out. Yep, I’m that guy.
Never really loved me, loved me like they did
Goodbye, Goodbye. A song for they.
5. I COULDN’T BE YOUR FRIEND
Sophy says: The opening to this song kills me. Seriously it is probably the best opening out of any of the songs on the record. It’s just so freaking coy and adorable, you know?
Does your heart ache when you get around me?
Does you heart break when you think about me?
I mean, it’s basically the musical equivalent of ;;). For real. And then the next time around it gets sexy, with ‘Does your body shake when you get around me? Does your body wake when you think about me?’
And you guys, this is one of the most striking things about this album – how sexualized it is. I think Tegan and Sara have been kind of shy about sex up till now and have mostly veiled it in their songs. But here, it’s out on display right from track 1 – “Let’s make things physical” – not just a shout-out to Olivia Newton-John, but something of a mission statement for the whole album. It’s about getting real. It’s about recognizing the earthiness of love – the down to earthness of art at the same time. A pop record about sex. A light, breezy album about, amongst other things, being so into someone you want to take their clothes off immediately, basically. They’re not pretending anymore. This is the way the world works. You’re in love? You want sex. You’re in music? You want people to be listening to you.
And then at the same time there’s a refusal to compromise on the things that really matter. And Rin and I couldn’t help noticing that this album is the first one where it’s been made explicit that Tegan and Sara are lesbians singing about girls. We could be wrong about this, and if we are, well, we’re the worst stans ever. But I feel like in ‘How Come You Don’t Want Me,’ “I see you by my house, walking with a different girl,” is the closest they’ve come to letting their sexuality de-ambiguise their music. Oh and hey, wow, I made a word.
And I wrote all of that and realized it could totally still be a guy walking with a different girl. This is how gay my brain has gotten. I picture someone with a girl and it’s automatically a girl.
But quite apart from anything else, the line about your body shaking when you’re around someone you’re in love with absolutely slays me. Because it’s a thought I’ve had before. No, not a thought. An experience.
It’s one of the times whilst listening to music that I’ve thought Oh shit, that’s me. I remember being in love with someone – though I’m not sure I quite recognized it at the time and maybe if I had things would have been different. I hadn’t seen this person in about a year and then all of a sudden he showed up in front of me when I was least expecting it and sat down for a chat just like old times. My leg was shaking the whole time. To the point where it was embarrassing and I sort of wanted to cry.
Rin says: This song might have both my favourite opening and closing. And this is one of their songs that moves around a lot and I love it. It’s like a rollercoaster, and by the time the last chorus comes about with Sara’s ‘Oh’s all over it, you’re about ready to take a nap.
The way Tegan sings the verses might be one of my favourites of the album, because I love the places where she goes up e.g. liar/criminal and I think it’s really nice melodically. It also sounds like something she hasn’t exactly done before — and yeah. It’s coy and adorable.
Also this is the first time they haven’t shied away from outright singing about girls rather than a genderless person. At least it was never made more clear before than in this album. I remember reading Tegan talking about that specifically in an interview too.. so yeah. It sounds about right that this is them making that step. Not that I think they’ve ever really done it on purpose in the past.. but yeah. Something new. Tegan does it a bit in Drove Me Wild when she sings about their skin being ‘golden brown’ and their hair ‘blowing in the wind’ .. I mean those aren’t exactly the kinds of things you’d be singing about for a man. OR IT COULD BE, IDK, DON’T BE SO CLOSE-MINDED RIN. I pre-empted you guys.
I Couldn’t Be Your Friend is pretty self-explanatory. It’s not about hating someone, it’s about liking someone too much that you can’t just go back to being friends. Too much has happened that it can’t ever just be normal because you’d always want more. I’m pretty sure we’ve all felt that.
4. SHOCK TO YOUR SYSTEM
Sophy says: Shock To Your System was another early favourite. I’ve seen people complain that the lyrics are simplistic. Well, okay. I’d say they were just simple. Sara is really telling it like it is on this album and as much as I love her cryptic little poems, I’m not sorry to see her put them aside for now. I actually think that’s the whole point of this song.
I read that Sara wrote this song about herself – or to herself, rather. And I think that makes a lot of sense. I think this song is the very good advice you give yourself – to let it go a while – to let things be simple – to let love be enough without questioning it every step of the way. Sara has always struck me as very analytical and intellectual. Like, if she wasn’t a pop star she’d probably be a professor, you know? With a tweed jacket and a pipe and a lot of books. I’m not going to pretend it’s a perfect dichotomy, because human beings are never all one thing or all another, but generally, where Tegan feels, Sara thinks. That’s been very evident not just in her lyrics but in her approach to song-writing generally. I’ve always felt this conscious restraint with Sara’s songs – as though she’s afraid of lying to us and that’s why, ironically, she won’t bare her soul.
Tegan wallows in love, you know? She’s the pig and love is in the trough. She doesn’t think twice about whether she’s being glib or overblown or foolhardy or something she’ll forget tomorrow. She feels it, so it’s true. There is no filter.
Sara filters. She sits by the trough and looks at the love, pokes at it with a stick, sniffs it and puts it in beakers and stuff. She worries about being a drama queen. She worries about being a faker. She worries about being caught up in “love” and missing love altogether. Basically, she’s a truth-seeker.
In one of the vids Tegan and Sara did for one of the songs Sara spoke about watching a couple fight and how it inspired her to write the song. And then I thought about how the only openly vulnerable song she contributed to The Con was about someone else – Burn Your Life Down, inspired by her grandfather’s love and loss. Tegan is always looking inward. Let’s face it, she’s a self-absorbed whiney little princess. IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY. But Sara is always looking outward – or she has been – almost as though she was trying to see herself in a reflection.
But I think here she’s saying to herself, don’t hold back, don’t always be on the outside looking in.
The soaring repetition of What you are is lonely is kind of like a wake up call the album is leaving us with. It’s saying ‘Don’t be lonely. Get closer.’
Or at least that’s how I always feel when I’m listening to Heartthrob in the car and this song comes to an end and the CD spins round to the first track again
Rin says: HAhaahahah this song can just go away. It really can. This is definitely one of the more reflective/thoughtful songs on the album and it absolutely kills me.
And okay, yes. Everything you wrote is yes. YES. That’s how I’ve always pictured Tegan and Sara and the ways they differ. But one of the things I’ll always remember about The Con movie is how Tegan was talking about her songs being all yelling and then Sara’s songs being all lush etc. And then Sara just says, ‘It’s fine, yin and yang.’ And I think she even did the David Brent hands. But that’s how Tegan and Sara have always come across to me as.. with Tegan looking in and Sara looking out. I’m not saying Sara has never shown herself, because she has.. of course she has, but like Sophy said. It’s kind of always been behind this veil of cleverly weaved lyrics. It’s different when you come outright and say ‘what you are is lonely’ and ‘you must rely on love once in a while’ etc.
Sara’s always been a bit more of a mystery. Tegan is always a bit more upfront and ridiculous and joking around, whereas Sara can sometimes be quiet. You know? Or maybe I’ve just.. watched a lot of interviews. BUT it’s really really nice to get some more insight into Sara’s world. It’s only a glimpse, but it’s also a really fucking beautiful glimpse at that.
You should be out driving people wild
First. SOAEGJPSJVAOJGA It ties in with Drove Me Wild. And also wpjbapsojcggapwojgpwas. Oh Sara. And ‘Who Gave you reason?’ …ashahbsrjodpfjamwphmbe. I am but a keyboard masher at this point.
But. The ending of this song is gorgeous. WHAT YOU ARE IS LONELY..oooohs…piano chords.
AND OH MY GOD SOPHY. I had never. Don’t be lonely, get closer.
3. HOW COME YOU DON’T WANT ME NOW
Sophy says: Yeah so wow. This is just… wow.
I can’t say that I’m sorry for loving you and hating myself.
Just. How. That hurts. Make it stop. Except also make it never stop.
One of my favourite things about Tegan and Sara is that they don’t shy away from the parts of love that people write self-help books to try to get you to, well, shy away from. Those things can be beautiful too, you know? I mean, they’re ugly as hell, but they’re still beautiful. That’s what this song is. It’s unashamedly ugly-beautiful, with its outright insistance on being unworthy and its completely abject begging to be found worthy anyway.
There’s the aching, self-harm of “I have nothing to show you, I have nothing to hold you down,” and then there’s the jealous, pleading “She’s got nothing to show you, she’s got nothing to hold you down.” And the strange, arresting, poetically licensed “You’re killing me to walk away.” And I don’t it’s just all so terribly poignant. Especially the triviliaty of someone not taking your call being mixed in with all this high angst. Because that’s what it really comes down to, isn’t it? Sometimes life doesn’t seem worth living when someone else won’t pick up the phone.
And I think what’s so painful about this song is that it’s kind of chronicling the experience of being adored and then unadored. It’s a kind of ‘always the bride, now demoted to bridesmaid’ thing. And I like the fact that Sara doesn’t pretend to be noble about it.
Rin says: Um. So. What we were saying about Sara opening herself up on this album? Yeah, this is like.. she freaking put her heart out there on the table and said, ‘Hey world! This is me. Have at it.’ And that’s brave. It’s so brave. And I admire and love her for it. OH SARA, I WANT YOU.
I think this might be the most.. commercial? Of all of them. I MEAN APART FROM CLOSER, OBVIOUSLY. But I feel like this is a really accessible song that if on the radio, lots of people would remember it and make a note to look it up later.
This song is, for lack of a better word, whiny. I know that sounds wrong, but it is. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that at all. Why can’t Sara whine about lost love? We’ve all been there and felt that.. exactly how this song goes. So why not write a truthful song that reflects everything you feel? Especially if it’s going to be a song that works as well as this.
It speaks of being utterly lost as to how you suddenly became less desirable. And oh my god, what kind of person would you have to be that Sara writes A SONG LIKE THIS about you?? D:
I love the opening line a lot.
I can’t say that I’m sorry for getting so ahead of myself
I love it for revealing the romantic in Sara. She’s just all, ‘TEGAN’S NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO LIKES LOVE YOU GUYS ‘
Sophy says: THAT LINE. Reminds me always of ‘I won’t regret saying this, this thing that I’m saying. Is it better than keeping my mouth shut? That goes without saying.”
AND YOU ARE SO RIGHT IT IS WHINY. And I love it.
Sophy says: I love this song. I really, really love it. I loved it the moment I heard it. It was kind of a surprise, I’ll admit. Sort of like someone yelling at you really loudly in a quiet room. BUT YELLING GOOD TIDINGS. Because this isn’t a song I thought Tegan and Sara would ever write. Certainly not Tegan, anyway. At first I thought No, this cannot be, because it was just way too damn happy, you know?
But then the more I listened to it, the more I started having this uncomfortably lumpy feeling in my chest and I was like, oh right, there it is, there’s Tegan Quin making me cry like a loser. Because this song is so happy that it’s sad, basically. It’s Tegan and Sara’s ‘Friday I’m In Love’.
You can’t listen to it without wanting to jump around. You can’t listen to it without pining for the times when someone you used to love made you want to jump around too.
Closer is pure nostalgia. It’s about a time when falling in love was easy and quick and delirious. A time when you were so sure of yourself even if now you know you can’t be certain of anything when you’re young. It’s about thinking you’re special because you haven’t quite understood how universal your experience is yet.
Let’s make things physical
I won’t treat you like you’re oh so typical
There’s something about that that is totally naive and yet totally truthful, and the same goes for, you know the rest of the song.
(“Hey Giles, nice wheels!” “The rest of the car is nice too.”)
But yeah. I kind of feel the same way about this song as I do about My Best Friend’s Wedding. You don’t get to tell me it’s rubbish just because it’s a rom com, okay? This song may be boppy and bright, but it is just as meaningful and just as beautifully crafted as the Tegan and Sara songs that make you cry. Except for how this one makes me cry too.
WHATEVER, THEY ALL MAKE ME CRY.
Rin says: Here, another acoustic treat.
Closer.. well, it was everyone’s first listen of the new album wasn’t it? And I think everyone felt the same way.. ‘whaat is this…..OMFG I LOVE IT OMFGOFMAGOGAMEORIGHJRO’ is pretty much how it went down. I mean by the time Tegan was being all ‘all you think of lately is getting underneath me’ you had to have been sold. Because oh my goodness. It’s such a freaking great song. And I love how unexpected it was. They must have been nervous releasing this song, surely. A line dancing song would have been closer to what they’ve done in the past.. but then, there were always signs they were heading in this direction. Their collaborations with Tiesto and Morgan Page kind of hinted at this being the kind of music they wanted to make now. And again, I’m just really proud of them for being brave enough to explore new avenues.
And Closer is the perfect introduction to their ‘new’ sound. I can’t full get behind saying they have a new sound, because.. well, it’s still them? And I think that’s the reason why I’ve never once thought that they’d ~sold out or whatever. There are always ‘fans’ who say that about their new albums when they come out and I just. I facepalm. If you think Tegan and Sara being on the radio once in a while, or playing bigger venues means they have sold out — you need to take a step back and re-evaluate whatever self-righteous ‘values’ you have. They are musicians who earn their living off record sales and shows, and have done so for most of their lives. I don’t see how wanting to sell more and play bigger venues changes anything. Not once have they compromised their art. I’m not a particularly old T&S fan, but I have seen them quite a number of times in a variety of places and I can say that each and every time I’ve seen them I’ve gotten the same amount of satisfaction from seeing them play live. They’re always on point, and always giving everything they’ve got. They are a class act, absolutely no doubt about it. And you know, when I heard about them playing The Opera House this year? I almost cried because I was so proud of them. They are still the little engine that could in my eyes, so when they get the opportunity to play ..pretty much the most prestigious venue in Australia? Yeah. I’m fucking happy for them. These are milestones that any band in the entire world would feel privileged to have reached. And if you want to take that away from them by saying they’ve gotten too mainstream? Christ.
I am such a stan. I haven’t even really read anything about the haters, but I KNOW THEY’RE OUT THERE. AND IT JUST MAKES ME SO ANGRY.
Sophy says: What gets me about the acoustic version is that it could be on So Jealous or The Con. The beepy bits are wrapping, people. The present inside is still just as good.
Also before I started reading Rin’s bits she told me that we are the biggest Tegan and Sara apologists in the world. I read her bits. And saw that she is right and I need to keep my end up. I think Rin is totally on point in feeling angry with the haters. If you love a band you’re always going to be irritated by people who think they’re rubbish, but you’re going to feel flat out pissed at people who say they only like their early work, you know.
UGH, THOSE PEOPLE.
I mean sure, sometimes it’s true – a band starts out well and then the wheels come off and you really don’t know what they’re even trying to do anymore. But that is not the case here, by any stretch of the imagination. Look, I’m not saying this has to be your fave Tegan and Sara album ever or anything. In fact, feel free to call it your least fave. But if you seriously can’t find anything to love in these songs then I suspect you didn’t love the band in the first place. Not the way you should have.
YES, EVERYONE HAS A DUTY TO LOVE TEGAN AND SARA, THIS IS JUST HOW I FEEL, DEAL WITH IT.
Um, but seriously. To say you love Tegan and Sara but hated Heartthrob just seems like a nonsense to me. It kind of tells me that you only liked them in the first place for shallow, wrapping-paper reasons. You know, like those people who loved gen 2 of Skins but failed to see the value in gen 3.
(And by gen 3 I mean series 5, because there is no value in series 6.)
1. NOW I’M ALL MESSED UP
Sophy says: Hello to one of my new favourite songs of all time. Of all time.
I’ve been trying to process how much I love this one particular line ever since I first heard this song:
Now I’m all messed up, sick inside wondering where, where you’re leaving your makeup.
WHAT IS THAT, I’M SORRY BUT. WHAT. AND. I JUST. BECAUSE. BUT?
And I mean, then they go and follow it up with the corresponding wondering whose life you’re making worthwhile. And I’m just. I’m sorry. I don’t. But because. And?
It’s just so dreadfully, pitifully, world-endingly romantic, you guys.
I gather that this song is Sara’s, but to me what makes it so perfect is that it’s a true blend of Tegan’s unabashed feeling and Sara’s refusal to go to the melodramatic place. It’s restrained and the emotional punch in the guts is all the harder for that restraint. I don’t want to say Tegan and Sara have never been to this place before. Tegan found that same knife-edge between the two of their approaches with ‘Call It off’. It’s no coincidence that that is my favourite Tegan and Sara song of all time and that this is my favourite from this album.
But where Call It Off was intimate, small and deep down below, Now I’m All Messed Up is vast and soaring, and it kind of gives you the same feeling you get when you’re coming down a mountain hard and the wind is rushing past you on its way up.
But the bareness of it, you guys.
“Why do you take me down this road if you don’t wanna walk with me?”
That’s right, Sara. Go ahead and ask. Ask the questions we never ask when it really counts, because we’re too afraid of the answers.
This song is a recognition of powerlessness – and that, in itself, is an empowered thing. This song is putting yourself completely at the mercy of another human being because you choose to. It’s not pretending you can make things right if they’re somebody else’s wrong. And at the same time it’s a refusal to live with all the things you would say instead of just saying them.
Goodbye, Goodbye struggles and rails. It hurts and holds things in. Now I’m All Messed Up lays down its arms. By the bridge it is quiet, resigned, a useless downbeat echo of what has come before. But then it rises up again with the exultant command to Go! – if you want to – I can’t stop you. And the kicker? The ‘Please stay’ that is slipped behind like a love-note in the pages of a book.
With that, everything is said, everything is given – what you love and don’t like – what you need – what you know is someone else’s – all theirs – all of you.
This is a consuming love song. It is a consumingly beautiful thing. It is all sorrow, no regrets.
It is actually perfect.
Rin says: Okay. This is one of the early songs I got to hear too, from a live version on youtube. And with Closer it was instantaneous love. With Now I’m All Messed Up? It was like.. watching a baby walk for the first time. Which, I haven’t actually done yet, but it felt like that. Because by the time Sara was YELLING OUT during the chorus I felt like some kind of invisible barrier that we never knew was there before was just broken through. Like finally Tegan and Sara had found their place in the world.. EVEN THOUGH THEY’D ALWAYS HAD ONE. I don’t know, am I making any sense? Probably not.
This is a triumph of a song and I feel like if Tegan and Sara were ever to have a power ballad, or an anthem, this would be it. Sophy is so right that this is a song about powerlessness, but that is what makes it empowering. If you don’t feel empowered when you’re singing along with Sara’s GO!’s, then I don’t know. But I feel it. I feel it when I’m yelling horribly out of tune in the car — and half the time I’m not even sure who I’m yelling at to go. Probably because I wouldn’t be brave enough to tell the person I loved to go, in case they actually went. I’m not one to play chicken.
And yeah, that’s why the ‘Please stay’ is the part that tugs at your heart.
The chorus for this song might be one of my favourite things they’ve ever done. And I guess that’s why it’s at number one.
Sophy says: So I think it’s safe to say that Rin and I both love Heartthrob. We’re always going to fangirl over Tegan and Sara’s work, but for me this album hit spots that Sainthood didn’t quite reach. I would still probably cite The Con as my favourite Tegan and Sara album of all time, because it’s what Rin and I bonded over, and I remember having this always feeling when I first listened to it. That feeling hasn’t gone away.
But the thing about Heartthrob is that it’s different from The Con. It’s different from The Con and So Jealous and Sainthood and If It Was You, This Business Of Art, Under Feet Like Ours. It’s so very much itself that it can’t be a poor man’s anything.
In some ways I feel like growing up is a grief process, and maybe the stages get a little jumbled up depending on who you are and how you live, but they’re all there. Denial – I’m still young at heart – I’ll never become my mother – the future won’t pin me down – I can still be all the same things I’ve been so vividly since I became aware of myself as a separate sentient me. Anger – the whole world is not right and I’ll be wrong in it – you won’t make me into something that works – for a living – as a life – get out, get out, let me just be. Bargaining – I like the car – I like sex – I like eating breakfast alone – I’ll give pieces of myself for these things – I’ll give pieces of these things for the self I used to be. Depression – I’m never going to be strong enough, solid enough, serious enough – it will never stop hurting in the places I have lost – I will never make anything real enough to fix it – to fix myself in time – time will swallow me up – I will be gone. Acceptance – I’m not afraid anymore – I’m not angry – I’m not sad on a full-time basis – what was once vivid is now sharp and I don’t want to hurt any more than I have to – it’s over – the war – and the peace is a part of it.
Forgive me if that all sounds bizarre to you. Because I know some people do find it all easy. I know some people rush at life and live it like you drink a glass of water on a hot day. But I don’t think Tegan and Sara are those kinds of people. I think they are grief-people. And I think that has come through in their albums.
There is an ache to Heartthrob, just as there has always been and will, I suspect, always be an ache to the music Tegan and Sara make. But where in The Con it was a raw, angry kind of ache, in Heartthrob it is a smooth, sweet kind of ache. I feel like this is their first grown-up album, in that it doesn’t all have to hurt so much. There’s a sense of looking back – of nostalgia – You carried romance in the palm of your hand – You never really knew me never ever, never ever saw me, saw me like they did – and this is reflected in the 80’s synth-pop vibe that’s going on on a lot of the tracks. And yet there’s also more of a sense of enjoying the moment – Does your body shake when you get around me? – You must rely on love once in a while to give you reason – of letting a song happen, rather than trying to wring all of the meaning out of the world with it.
There’s a freedom and a lack of urgency in this album. And yet there’s also a new sense of control. I feel as though this is the first time Tegan and Sara have created a set of songs consciously, with purpose and precision. And maybe that’s why it feels like this is the first Tegan and Sara album ever.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to put down what has come before. At this point I still love The Con more, possibly even So Jealous. All I am saying is that in the past I’ve always been able to clearly differentiate between the Tegan songs and the Sara songs, to the point where it’s often felt like a collaboration between two solo artists. Now it feels like a band. And yes, of course we can all still tell which songs are primarily Tegan’s work and which are primarily Sara’s work, but most of that is coming from their voices now, whereas it used to come from nearly everything – the song-structure, the lyrical content, the hooks, the rhythms – all of these things were markers of either Tegan or Sara. On Heartthrob the distinction is not nearly so sharp. For example, if you told me that ‘Goodbye, goodbye,’ or ‘How Come You Don’t Want Me’ were Tegan songs Sara was singing, I’d buy it. I could believe Sara put most of the work into ‘Closer’ and ‘Drove Me Wild’.
Somewhere, somehow, Tegan has found some joy. She’s always been this beautiful beast, wailing and gnashing her musical teeth all over the place and I have loved her for it. But I can’t say it’s not refreshing to hear her singing about being in love. Not wishing she was in love. Not remembering when she thought she was. Being in it. And Sara? Sara has started baring her soul for us and that is kind of exciting. Because she’s always been comparatively guarded, you know? She’s always kind of wrapped herself up in riddles, both lyrically and musically. And now suddenly here she is, telling us straight what is in her heart. I never thought I’d see the day when Sara would be so vulnerable with us as to write a song like “How come you don’t want me?”
So I guess there’s more of a balance now – no, more of a blending. They really are one voice in a way they haven’t been till now, and I kind of dig it.
I can see how Tegan and Sara purists might not be thrilled with it, the same way Rilo Kiley purists weren’t thrilled with Under The Blacklight, the same way fans of The Cure were crushed and dejected every time the band said ‘No, sorry, you won’t box me in’. But you know, saying that, I’m not really sure it’s fair to call the people who are disappointed with change purists. All artists are works in progress. The truth of their work is not where they started. It’s not even where they end up. It’s the summation of everything that came in between. It’s the journey. And so the guitars are on the backburner for now, computers are taking pride of place. But this is still Tegan and Sara. It’s still pure. I still believe it.
But maybe that’s because I’ve never really been averse to pop – I’ve only pretended to be in the thick of my teenage posing, and even then not with any ferocity. Pop is amazing. Or it can be. And in Tegan and Sara’s case it most certainly is. This album is kind of like what you’d imagine might happen if all those pop singers you hear on the radio weren’t just vehicles for people behind the scenes, but were actually really talented, smart musicians and lyricists, speaking to you from their hearts, you know? If you thought the answer to that question was ‘Lady Gaga,’ you were wrong. The answer is Heartthrob.
So everyone go out and buy this album. Do it. This many words should earn us at least 50 conversions. People have already given it a listen due to our incoherent fangirling about it on twitter and they have fallen in love.
You will too. Promise.
Rin says: Definitely. At least give it a go, and I’m sure you’ll find at least a couple songs you like. There is very little else that makes us happier than introducing people to things they might have never given a go otherwise, and having them like it. I used to not like potatoes when I was young, you guys. POTATOES!!!! But they might be the actual gift from god, not Jesus. Potatoes.
What am I saying. I might be a bit delirious from having Heartthrob on repeat and trying to write about all my feelings for Tegan and Sara which is pretty much impossible. I really don’t have much to add to the final thoughts, because Sophy’s feelings are my feelings. I do have to strongly agree that they’ve found the perfect balance between the two of them, and that the gap between ‘tegan’ songs and ‘sara’ songs has been filled. It’s not something I even thought about before Heartthrob, because I always thought that’s just the way they worked. But it is pretty obvious that they have collaborated with each other more than ever on this album, and it’s working. And producing a whole bunch of music that goes to places they haven’t been before. It’s refreshing, and Tegan and Sara didn’t even need to be refreshed. It’s a sign that they’re not comfortable just doing what they do, and that they are still looking to grow. And that’s straight-up admirable.
Tegan and Sara are my favourite band. And they always will be. Even if I make it to 80 and don’t even really listen to them all that much, I will always be thankful and remember that they fully represented everything I love about music, and what it has the power to do. It’s a life-type thing.
Sophy says: How the fuck could you ever not like potatoes. I know this isn’t the right note to end on for a review of Tegan and Sara’s album, but potatoes?
Like, sure, maybe olives are an acquired taste.
BUT POTATOES, RIN?