Review Summary: An olive branch between the past and present.
No Tegan and Sara album has had a more important rollout than Hey, I’m Just Like You
. The entire record was released as an accompaniment to the twins’ new memoir High School, which details their adolescent years and musical beginnings. As someone who read it, I can safely say it represents the two incredibly well: an idiosyncratic blend of social struggles, melancholy, and the same frank honesty that fuels all of their records. Many rockstars and pop stars release memoirs and autobiographies, but it’s rare to find one that cuts through the bullshit as much as this one does. And that’s why my excitement really spiked up for Hey, I’m Just Like You
: the album follows the lead of High School and consists entirely of songs Tegan and Sara wrote in their teenage years. So it’s basically the musical equivalent of an origin story film; we know who the sisters are, but now we get to find out the roots of their career.
But there’s a twist: they haven’t fully given up their synthpop sound. No, this is essentially a summation of their entire career. There’s the folk-tinged alternative rock of their first few records, the confessional indie rock of their mid-career peak, and the glossy synth-laden production of their newer works. Yet surprisingly, it doesn’t come off as a mess. The prospect of updating old angsty teenage rock songs into a synthrock format seems like a recipe for disaster, but almost every song manages to be both immediately catchy and deeply textured at the same time. There’s also a strange sense of nostalgia that fuels the album, mostly in the really synth-driven songs like “Keep Them Close ‘Cause They Will Fuck You Too” (gotta love the title) and the gorgeously layered title track. It’s that same feeling you get when you go on a night drive and visit a bunch of familiar locales from your youth; some intangible feeling just washes over you in that kind of situation.
Several of the rockers, on the other hand, evoke the duo’s past very nicely. “I’ll Be Back Someday” splits the difference between punk and indie rock, and could even pass for a song from Weezer’s early years. “Hold My Breath Until I Die”, on the other hand, goes for a more introspective alternative rock approach while melding power chords and ethereal keyboards wonderfully. Also, I have to commend Tegan and Sara for keeping this album incredibly concise and punchy. 38 minutes, 12 songs, and most of them are around the three-minute mark. Nothing overstays its welcome, even the slower tracks like the acoustic ballad “Please Help Me” or the lovely piano/guitar dynamic of “All I Have to Give the World is Me.” Then again, the duo have always had a penchant for not being too rambly or overstuffed in their arrangements. But the wonderful thing about Hey I’m Just Like You is that the combination of past and present lends so much more variety to these songs. There’s a real beauty to an album that can switch from bombastic synthpop to alternative rock to gentle folk to indie pop in one experience, all without losing its cohesion.
The one thing that might prove contentious for listeners, however, is the lyrical content. As forgivable as it may be because of the time the sisters wrote these songs, the lines do occasionally come off as pretty cringy. It’s a lot of diary-book angst and surface level romantic cheese, which likely coincides with their adolescent writing style at the time. The lyrics are at least presented in a catchy way, and the music does overshadow most of the damage they could do to the record’s quality, but they’re worth noting for their flaws nonetheless. Personally, I only consider them to be a minor blemish on an otherwise fantastic collection of tunes. Hey, I’m Just Like You
has something for any kind of Tegan and Sara fan - no matter which era you may prefer - and if you’ve been on the fence about trying their music, their music has never been easier to get into than this.