My epic quest to return back to Northern Ireland included: a 300-mile drive, a 2-hour delay in Liverpool, a boat journey with around 100 loud American tourists, all intent on drinking the boat's entire supply of Guinness, and then, finally, a snow- shovelling session which lasted an hour, all so I had somewhere to abandon the car.
It wasn’t all bad, though. I got to spend a lot of time listening to music, one of the few things I actually like about driving – there is something quite cathartic about singing along whilst in a world of your own.
I was recently interviewed by Sampad Sengupta and Ellie Burr-Lonnan for The Portmuthian. In that interview, I mentioned two things: one was that I would like to write album reviews as an alternative career, but that the thought of using so many words was simply terrifying for a mathematician; the other was Baz Luhrmann’s song, “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen,” in which he says: “Do one thing each day which scares you.”
So...here goes nothing:
The most notable album I listened to on my travels was the aforementioned 'Heartthrob' by Tegan and Sara. It is nothing short of a triumph. On their seventh attempt, the Quin sisters have released what is, without question, their best album to date and probably a contender for the best pop album of the year. What is more impressive is that the girls have abandoned their guitars and traded them in for keys and synthesisers. With each album, their sound has slowly evolved but here they have jumped feet first in to the world of pop music ... and they are showing everyone else how it is done.
The album opens with the track “Closer”; you may recognise it from the BBC’s coverage of the Six Nations (perhaps my only highlight of the tournament). An extremely uplifting track with a hugely infectious chorus, it is a song about new love and, along with “Love They Say,” is one of few moments the girls spare us from the world of heartbreak.
Instead, the pair choose to tackle broader topics on the love continuum. “How Come You Don’t Want Me” is a deeply depressing song written from the perspective of someone not taking rejection well; “Now I’m All Messed Up”, perhaps my favourite track on the album, details the devastating moments when a relationship falls apart; and “I Couldn’t Be Your Friend” is about how it can seem impossible to remain friends with a lost love.
The girls do take a moment out from the world of love and loss on “I'm Not Your Hero,” a song Sara wrote about her time growing up and coping with her individuality, and, perhaps, how it then felt to become a role model for the LGBT community when she stood up to the homophobic lyrics written by Tyler the Creator (see here).
What the girls have accomplished is an album that sounds like it could have been released 30 years ago yet still somehow manages to sound current. 'Heartthrob' excels at disguising its darker lyrical content with bright, electronica flourishes and it’s consistent up-tempo beat; they manage to harmonise throughout in a way that only twin sisters know how. It is entirely different to anything they’ve ever released, yet still sounds like a Tegan and Sara album. I promise, you will not regret it if you choose to buy 'Heartthrob' (or, more likely, spend time looking for it on Spotify or You Tube), for it is truly exceptional. In fact, it is so close to perfection that I’m left with no choice but to leave my rating as an obscene decimal/fraction combination.
Additional Infomation (including album trailer):
2. Goodbye, Goodbye
3. I Was A Fool
4. I'm Not Your Hero
5. Drove Me Wild
6. How Come You Don't Want Me
7. I Couldn't Be Your Friend
8. Love They Say
9. Now I'm All Messed Up
10. Shock to Your System
11. Guilty as Charged (Bonus track)
12. I Run Empty (Bonus track)