Indie twin darlings Tegan and Sara wowed critics and gained fans with 2007’s The Con. This year, they’ve delivered again. Sainthood, the duo’s sixth studio album, is equal parts dramatic departure and logical progression, sonically lighter and lyrically denser than previous efforts—but entirely Tegan and Sara.
"Arrow," the Sara-penned opening track, immediately invites us to enter the twin’s infamously distant sonic world. Where Sara questions – "Would you take a straight and narrow, critical look at me?" – we must answer.
Tegan takes a more straightforward approach with the lead single "Hell," punky "Northshore," and pleading "The Ocean." Yes, in what might be an odd move for any band (especially, a twin-driven one), Tegan and Sara are not Tegan and Sara at all—at least in the writing process. Each brings love (and its struggles) to the forefront: Sara, strategically, Tegan, earnestly, and both of them, separately.
"Paperback Head" is the album’s lone exception. Written together in a New Orleans writing session, it conjures visions of Sainthood’s peculiar album art, Tegan’s doe eyes pointing skyward as she slips inside a paper cutout of a face that was once, presumably, her own. It’s an odd product, indeed—and it works.
Sara continues that trend, her penchant for wordsmith-ery and wit creating the album’s most memorable gems. "Nightwatch" showcases these traits best, its catchy "I’ve got grounds for…" refrain mixing with a paranoid chorus. "You cannot follow me," Sara insists, but quickly changes her tune in the lovelorn "On Directing" and lachrymose "Alligator."
Leave it to the ever-teasing Tegan to end the album on an ironically upbeat note. "Someday" is bubbly yet vulnerable, revisiting the pains of adolescence ten years too late. Tegan proclaims, "Mark my words, I might be something someday." For Tegan – and Sara – Sainthood just might be that something.
Sainthood is out now on Sire Records.