Tegan and Sara
The Con


5.0
classic

Review

by Brendan Schroer STAFF
May 17th, 2018 | 12 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A confessional, autobiographical masterpiece.

Once in a while, you find that special moment when the magic of an artist just clicks. And I’m not talking about gradual infatuation either, but rather the sudden realization that what you’re listening to is truly incredible - even if you’ve been listening for quite some time. In the case of my relationship with Tegan and Sara’s music, that moment came with one single video. For anyone who’s not aware of Tiny Desk, it’s basically an NPR concert series that focuses on putting musicians in a more unplugged and intimate setting than usual. For certain artists - particularly those within indie, folk, and jazz scenes - this setup is already ideal for their work. However, the real magic comes from the people who aren’t typically accustomed to this way of performing. T-Pain, for instance, blew people’s minds when they realized that behind all the autotune, there was actually a solid set of soul-singing pipes in him. PWR BTTM, meanwhile, proved that they could take their signature garage punk style and translate it nicely to a less anarchic environment. But as far as Tegan and Sara are concerned, using a “less-is-more” approach is simply going back to their roots; after all, their glossy synthpop experiments have only become dominant with recent releases. So the act of stripping their music down to the core elements is doing exactly what they did best to begin with (with respect to their last few releases, which are still pretty good).

However, that’s not the aspect I wanted to put my main focus on. Near the middle of Tegan and Sara’s Tiny Desk performance, something beautiful happens. The setlist features a stunning rendition of “100x” from the duo’s latest album Love You to Death, retaining the tight harmonies and minimalist piano of the original. But right near the end of the song’s bridge, Tegan lets out the most radiant smile you may ever see. It comes from nowhere, as if she herself is completely caught up in the moment of the song. Hell, the tune is actually very somber; still, that one smile and the gorgeously harmonized final chorus reminded me of exactly why Tegan and Sara have long been considered such stalwarts of indie pop music: because they’re so damn genuine, right down to their earnest and humble band name. Back before the emphasis on synthesizers, back before the dance-pop beats, back before the high-gloss production values, the duo’s chemistry is what dominated their best material. Their unshakable bond ensured that the most emotionally crippling and devastating topics could be covered with a grace and tact that came off as resonant without sounding melodramatic. And this is especially true of The Con, which could easily be described as the group’s darkest hour from a behind-the-scenes standpoint.

Everything from death, to relationships, to loss, to general turmoil, and to the passage of time is expressed in detail on The Con, and all with the organic indie/pop/folk/punk mixture that defined them in that era. This album could be considered the centerpiece to the band’s peak era, their holy trinity rounded out by So Jealous and Sainthood, but I still find myself coming back to this record more often than the other two. There’s something about the sense of conflict and darkness in the sisters’ stories that makes it so alluring, and it’s made all the more potent by the fact that Sara finally had a much stronger presence in the music than ever before. For the first time in their studio output, The Con sees Tegan and Sara split their songwriting duties 50/50, writing 7 tracks each. There’s a very clear distinction between their styles as well, with Tegan writing more minimalist and emotionally blunt songs while Sara opted for more complex instrumental passages with slightly more cryptic lyrics. That’s not to say they don’t cross each other stylistically; I’d argue that their respective tunes provide their own variations on a similar overarching style. But still, you might not expect Tegan to write the Sara-penned acoustic intricacies of “Knife Going In”; likewise, you might not expect Sara to write the propulsive pop-punk attack that Tegan brings to “Hop a Plane.”

Still, the appeal comes from how the two bring it all together. Admittedly, the The Con does have a scatterbrained approach in how its songs are organized and presented - lending to its choppy flow - but that’s also somehow the essence of the music itself. It’s probably worth noting that the sisters were both working through different issues at the time, such as Sara struggling to get her girlfriend a Visa or Tegan recovering from the breakup of a 5-year relationship. Also, they were living in completely different areas at the time of recording. That’s probably a good explanation of why their approaches and lyrics differ the way they do, especially in some of more personal tracks. The brilliant synth-glazed acoustic closer “Call It Off” feels like it could only been written by Tegan to describe the account of her breakup, despite the distant backing vocals by Sara complimenting the chorus. Sara, meanwhile, seems to develop a slight arc between the dark contemplation of “Knife Going In” and the bubbly piano pop bounce of “Back in Your Head,” the latter of which seems like the logical recovery and aftermath to the painful relationship woes of the former. But while the album is scatterbrained in its songwriting and emotions, it’s never stylistically scatterbrained; in that way, there’s actually a lot of cohesion here. The acoustic/electric guitar mix, the pop-meets-punk-meets-alternative genre blend, and the indie sensibility are the mainstays here, regardless of what the duo is addressing.

If I were to state The Con’s biggest strength, it’s that Tegan and Sara were able to come together so naturally to face their own individual pains and vices. It may be cliche to use a phrase like “the power of sisterhood,” but that’s exactly what makes The Con work. This was the record that had their best chemistry, their most genuine and heartfelt songwriting, arguably their most affecting vocal performances, and their strongest emotional core. This is practically the pinnacle of confessional indie pop music.



Recent reviews by this author
Evergrey Theories of EmptinessBeyonce Cowboy Carter
FLETCHER In Search Of The AntidoteJudas Priest Invincible Shield
Norah Jones VisionsLaura Jane Grace Hole In My Head
user ratings (432)
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
FlawedPerfection EMERITUS (3.5)
Indie pop goodness but underdeveloped...

brew618 (4.5)
How many love songs can you write?...

armfarm (4)
...

TheSaneLunatic (3.5)
Another fine album from Tegan And Sara... although several songs should have been altered for length...



Comments:Add a Comment 
Koris
Staff Reviewer
May 17th 2018


21288 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I realize it took me a while to get to the meat of this review, but I really wanted to bring up that amazing Tiny Desk concert. It felt like an amazing look back at their older sound, and I hope they go back to that style again

DinosaurJones
May 17th 2018


10402 Comments


Those Tiny Desk concerts are almost always amazing.

Koris
Staff Reviewer
May 17th 2018


21288 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah man, I haven't seen one I've disliked yet

Trebor.
Emeritus
May 18th 2018


59903 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

wag

Koris
Staff Reviewer
May 18th 2018


21288 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

[2]

Gyromania
May 18th 2018


37188 Comments


wag [2]

Slex
May 18th 2018


16663 Comments


"The pinnacle of confessional indie pop" idk The Execution of All Things exists

Mentasm
May 18th 2018


567 Comments


Holy shit completely forgot about these girls.

Nikkolae
May 19th 2018


6703 Comments


must confess I´ve yet to listen to anything from this album which is a damn shame since i love sainthood and Love you to Death

silentstar
May 20th 2018


2528 Comments


I haven't heard the album in full yet but I must say that I really enjoyed the 10-year anniversary covers: http://teganandsara.com/theconx/

Koris
Staff Reviewer
May 20th 2018


21288 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The Con X was great, but I still much prefer the originals

Koris
Staff Reviewer
May 23rd 2018


21288 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I will say, though, I wasn't expecting Hayley Williams to do one of the covers. That was pretty cool



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2023 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy