Tegan and Sara's fifth album, The Con, found them expanding their sound to incorporate more texture and space in their approach. With the help of producer Chris Walla, they built on what they had done before to make something more complex and adult-sounding. Their sixth album, Sainthood, retains Walla as producer but discards much of the restraint and atmosphere of The Con in favor of a punchier, more direct feel that's more in line with the duo's best album, So Jealous. The arrangements are less cluttered, the songs are more straightforward, and the simple to understand and feel emotional impact of the album is visceral. They still put care into the way songs are structured and aren't shy about adding unusual sounds occasionally, but there is far more energy and fire on this record. Maybe they felt too restrained by the tightly sculpted and adult sound of the previous album and needed to get back to their roots. Maybe they didn't want to simply repeat themselves. Whatever the reason, the decision to strip back the sound a little bit was a good one that helps the album immeasurably. The high quality of the songs the sisters brought to the album helps even more. As on The Con, Sara's songs are more complicated musically and more nuanced lyrically, while Tegan's are simpler and poppier, with a more direct lyrical slant. It may be unfair to split them so clearly, but Sara seems like the artist and Tegan the pop kid. She definitely writes and sings the catchier tunes; her "The Cure" sounds like the hit single from the album, "Northshore" is a punky blast of fun, and her other tracks aren't far behind in the hook department. That's not to say that Sara can't write catchy songs (her "Alligator" would be the second single); they are just a little less open and more mysterious. There's a depth to her writing that Tegan's songs don't always have. That's OK, though, because it's the contrast between their writing styles and voices, slight as it may be, that works to make Sainthood another rich and rewarding album.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra