Final Rating: 8/10
Tegan and Sara are playing among the elite purveyors in pop music. T&S scored their biggest success with 2013’s seductive pop gem Heartthrob abandoning the indie folk-rock that had defined them. Love You to Death, The duo’s follow-up follows the same blueprint, cementing the musicians in the canon of great contemporary pop artists.
For long-time fans of the Canadian duo, it comes as no surprise that the Quinn sisters would continue to up the ante with their follow-up Love You to Death. Pop music is in the duo’s DNA, particularly on 2004’s hook-heavy So Jealous and songs “Back In Your Head” from 2007’s The Con or “Alligator” from 2009’s Sainthood. Where Heartthrob felt drawn together by the sleek production and synthpop leanings thanks to producer Greg Kurstin, Love You to Death is its big sister.
A full-throated embrace of mainstream success, synth-pop and new wave that turned the indie darlings into pop stars. Where Heartthrob inspired the blueprint for Taylor Swift’s 1989 and Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion, two of the best pop records in recent years, Love You to Death finds the identical twins pushing beyond the euphoric toe-dipping pop of Heartthrob, slashing into deeper emotional territory.
The full throttle dance pop and new relationship euphoria of “Closer” and “Drove Me Wild,” are never quite equaled here. Though would-be hits “Stop Desire,” and “U-Turn” offers boisterous dance pop, while “Dying To Know” light toys with EDM. Still, the album’s glossy pop exteriors are undeniable ear candy.
Beneath the sheen lies Tegan and Sara’s whipsmart dissection of relationships, opening up about the sisters’ fraught relationship on “White Knuckle,” “it was cruel of me to do what I did to you,” sings Sara on the raw ballad “100x.” Addressing the complexities of queer romance on neon pulsing hit “Boyfriend” and “BWU,” struggling with the notion of gay marriage to appease a partner.
The twins – both are openly gay – have skirted overt references to the gender of their romances or the use of pronouns “he” or “she,” until now. There are few, if any, mainstream queer artists openly addressing their sexuality in music, let alone with such playful teasing and nuance.
Elsewhere the bittersweet self-examination of “That Girl,” a sly admission and rebuttal of becoming unrecognizable in a relationship simmers at the surface with shimmering disco synth. It’s darker, introspective narrative, a theme the duo often trope in, is like much of the record peak Tegan and Sara.
Eight albums deep, Love You to Death doubles down on Heartthrob’s synth-pop template with greater success. The razor-sharp lyrics and harmonized hooks, hallmarks of T&S, remain. Irresistibly tight grooves, glowing new wave and syncopated hooks are abound on their glossiest record to date but the rawer, deeper lyrics are some of the best the duo have ever written. At 35, Tegan and Sara aren’t just making bubblegum worthy pop, their creating rich, complex adult pop songs.