Tegan and Sara have long served as the dark chocolate of pop music’s Willy Wonka factory of sweets. While their music is to some extent an acquired taste, it certainly inspires great ardor among the duo’s fans. In “Heartthrob,” the Quin sisters make use of a sweeter candy coating than their previous albums possessed. If 2009’s “Sainthood” was sticking a toe into the mainstream river, “Heartthrob” enthusiastically dives right in, with techno-synths and power-pop hooks pervasive from the start.
In album opener and lead single “Closer,” the sisters repeatedly chant, “All I want to get is a little bit closer,” making the song as infectious as the hook of any Top 40 hit. The persistent jangling of keyboards and electronic buzzing are present throughout the album, as the twins beautifully bridge the gap between folk-rock and synth-pop. While “Heartthrob” is certainly Tegan and Sara’s most commercial album yet, the duo manages to maintain the quirky sound that first made them indie idols.
Despite the album’s sugary pop flavor, many songs feature bittersweet tastes. These girls understand heartbreak. On “Now I’m All Messed Up,” both the lyrics and the austere electronic beats encapsulate the sensation of being left cold and alone, while the beautiful piano ballad “I Was a Fool” captures the feeling of being painfully proven wrong about someone. Though many may think otherwise about this concept, “Heartthrob“ is a shining testament to the belief that pop and soul don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Jan. 28 print edition. Meghan Racklin is a contributing writer. Email her at email@example.com