Artist: Tegan and Sara
In 2013, identical twins Tegan and Sara Quin traded their guitars and indie angst in for a large bank of synths and pop success. I remember hearing "Closer" for the first time and wondering whether this extreme departure would alienate their fan base. After all, the eponymous band who made their name playing Lilith Fair and the Newport Folk Festival suddenly found themselves opening for Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. Would their adorers balk? Apparently not. Heartthrob debuted at #3 on the Billboard Charts and won the Album of the Year Juno Award in their native Canada.
Truth be told, the sound is not the great departure touted by the media. A quick sampling of previous records will show that Tegan and Sara were already working more and more keyboards into their music and the songs were reaching toward the pop charts, if only falling short.
Enter producer Greg Kurstin, who had already achieved plenty of mainstream success with artists like Pink, Kelly Clarkson, and Lily Allen. Kurstin has a real way with synth color, as demonstrated on "Closer," which sparkles and percolates beneath the siblings' matched set of voices. And while none of the songwriting on Heartthrob gets me as excited as Kurstin's own work with The Bird and The Bee, lines like "I won't treat you like oh so you're typical" hit their mark.
And anyway, if this is the record that got us all a little bit closer to 2014's "Everything is AWESOME!!!," then it was well worth it.