Tegan and Sara have never been shy about changing up their sound, but 2013's Heartthrob was their biggest leap yet, one so drastic that it left some of their fans behind. Their slickly produced modern pop sound also gained them lots of new fans in return without sacrificing the intense emotions, lyrical insight, and songcraft their earlier albums delivered. Turns out the sisters are great pop vocalists, too. Their next album, 2016's Love You to Death, stuck to the same basic template, retaining Greg Kurstin as producer and surrounding their heartbreak ballads and empowering new wave rockers with glitteringly clean synths, percolating drum machines, and state of the art production. In the middle of it all are the stripped-raw, painfully honest vocals of the sisters telling the truth and laying themselves emotionally bare. Their version of pop music doesn't involve California girls or disco balls, AutoTune or EDM. Beneath the freshly scrubbed surfaces, the songs are as powerful and real as anything they did as an acoustic duo or an alt-rock band. The harsh truths of "Boyfriend" or "That Girl" aren't typical in pop music and that's why the duo are able to connect with listeners on a deeper level even as the huge pop hooks have them singing along. And there are lots of hooks on Love You to Death. Maybe none as splashy as the previous album's "Closer," though "U-Turn" comes close, but the overall catchiness level is just a little bit higher here. The rollicking "Dying to Know," the punchy "Stop Desire," and "B/W/U," which clothes its sadness in bubbling synth pop, would have been highlights on Heartthrob. Their ballad game is strong, too, with Sara's breathtaking piano-led "100X" leading the way and the album-ending, montage-ready "Hang on to the Night" very close behind.
Love You to Death is a brilliant consolidation of what Tegan and Sara started on Heartthrob, taking their deeply felt songs to the masses without losing any of what made them so great, so real, and ultimately so relatable no matter what one's situation in life may be to begin with. Their honesty and intelligence shine through at all times, and they take the sublime parts of the modern pop landscape, while giving no time to the ridiculous. Like Heartthrob, this is pop music that is all heart all the time, and for that, the sisters deserve every accolade that comes their way.