Review Summary: Indie pop goodness but underdevelopedThe Con
, on the outside, looks like a headstrong, fast punk album, with half of the songs falling under three minutes and three of them under two. However, this is anything but. It’s the fifth full length album from Canadian indie pop duo Tegan and Sara. The Quin sisters have gained a fair amount of popularity in the indie world, but this album is sure to take them to the next level, with two members of Death Cab for Cutie co-producing. The Con
is their first album since 2004’s So Jealous
, which racked up quite a few awards and made Rolling Stone’s top 50 albums of the year.
Although musical partners and sisters, Sara lives in Montreal while Tegan lives in British Columbia. Anyone with basic geographical knowledge of Canada will tell you that’s quite a distance. Perhaps this explains the quick, disconnected, and spastic style of the album. While each song is a nugget of indie pop goodness, hardly anything ever develops. Opening track “I Was Married” sounds ready to explode into something great at any moment, and suddenly, it stops. It seems like every song has a sudden, static ending and the next track moves to something completely different. There is no cohesion, no similarities putting the album together. The distorted rock style of “Hop a Plane” quickly changes, rather awkwardly, to the lush piano and digital soundscape of “Soil Soil”, which could have been brilliant if it didn’t just stop once again after a short-lived minute and a half. These underdeveloped ideas detract heavily from the album, especially since it happens often. Furthermore, rather than linking a few tracks that draw from the same style together, or at least putting them near each other on the album, each song presents a different sound as the album progresses. While the duo’s versatility is admirable, their spasmodic style makes the album much more ambiguous than it needs to be.
Therefore, it is no surprise that the longer, more developed songs on the album are absolutely fantastic. “The Con”, an immediately accessible and catchy song, takes a simple song structure but builds as synth sounds envelop the entire song, undoubtedly inspired by touring partners like The Killers. “Floorplan”, the longest song on the album, combines a guitar motif with swelling keyboard lines that counterbalance the guitar excellently. Where other songs would have just ended, everything drops out except for the warm vocal harmonies that dominate the album jubilantly singing “all eyes are on me now.” From there, the song builds itself back up and sounds like it should end suddenly. Here, Tegan and Sara’s songwriting style makes sense. The following track “Dark Come Soon” feels like an immediate single, showing up the vocal talent of the two sisters in fantastic harmonization and flexibility. Reverberated guitars, subtle but still obvious synths, and superb bass guitar playing make the instrumental section a joy to listen to, some of the best backing music on the album.
, full of short spurts of good but underdeveloped ideas and a few full-fledged songs, proves that Tegan and Sara have immense talent. Their vocals throughout the entire album are fantastic and they work together only like sisters could, even if they live across one of the largest countries in the world. If they could conjure an entire album of fully developed ideas, they could be the queens of the indie world, undefeated and unconquerable.