Music

Tegan and Sara: If It Was You

Adrien Begrand

Tegan and Sara

If It Was You

Label: Vapor
US Release Date: 2002-08-20
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

Tegan and Sara Quin's debut album from 2000, This Business of Art, wasn't overly spectacular, but it was pleasant enough to warrant attention from many listeners who first discovered them when they opened for such artists as Neil Young and Rufus Wainright. The 21-year-old twin sisters from Calgary, Alberta aren't ashamed to display their devotion to feminist folk icon Ani DiFranco for all to see, and that first album sounded little more than a tribute to DiFranco, and if it weren't for some excellent production work by Hawksley Workman, Tegan and Sara would have been dismissed as just another Lilith Fair spin-off act. So, when it came time to record their crucial follow-up album (insert tired sophomore jinx cliché here), the duo had a choice to make, to either continue to appeal to the folkie crowd, or to do something a bit bolder.

If It Was You isn't a shocking change in direction, but it's a good enough change that has, potentially, a more broad appeal. Recorded with co-producers John Collins (who produced The New Pornographers' Canadian indie classic Mass Romantic) and Dave Carswell (a New Pornographer himself), this new CD has more of an electric, pop/rock feel, and is louder and more upbeat than their previous effort. Tegan and Sara had a tendency to sound like dour teenagers on their first album (after all, they were teenagers), but If It Was You shows more maturity, more ambition, and less confrontation.

The pounding opening track "Time Running" immediately lets you know this is a different Tegan and Sara record, the two-minute song's urgency also reflected in the lyrics: "I've got more for the world than this / I've got love that I need to give." "You Went Away", with its jangly guitars, is two sweet minutes of infectious powerpop, while the equally catchy "Monday Monday Monday" describes a relationship that's turned as bland as that day of the week ("Your house or mine / I don't really care about it anymore / I close my eyes / I make myself unhappy so you'll go"). "City Girl" is a lilting, emotional ballad that expertly dances the fine line between emotional and unbearable ("I cry so hard that you push me further away") while evoking thoughts of Juliana Hatfield, and the easygoing "I Don't Know" comes awfully close to Sheryl Crow territory. The raucous "I Hear Noises", with its combination of twelve-string and distorted electric guitars, sounds influenced by Nick Lowe's work, both as an artist and a producer, and the song's Moog synth accents further enhance that circa-1980 feel.

Three songs on If It Was You stand above the rest, the best examples of the duo's growing songwriting talents and the best combinations of their folk influences and their new, louder direction. The Britpoppy "Want to Be Bad", with its combination of a shuffling drum beat, acoustic guitars, and ethereal electric guitar solo licks with an excellent vocal performance by Tegan (at least, I think it's Tegan . . . they sound so much alike). According to their bio, "Under Water" was inspired by Sara's attempt at writing a children's book, and it possesses a real sing-song quality along with some more 12-string guitar (think The La's), with its very pretty chorus of "All I need is time / Time to love you" and the odd facetious aside ("Your silly love songs / A bird's chorus and such"). Tegan's fun, bluegrass stomp of a song "Living Room" is the album's catchiest tune, as she describes the view through a neighbor's uncomfortably close window and the voyeuristic desire to keep staring: "My windows look into your bathroom / I spend the evening watching you get yourself clean / I wonder why it is they left this bathroom so unclean / So unlike me."

It's good to see that Tegan And Sara know the difference between singing an emotional song well and just trying too hard to get the message across; most singers their age simply beat a song to death with their vocal histrionics, ripping off Alanis Morrissette, et al, but these wisecracking sisters possess a maturity and easygoing feel that's sorely lacking in the Young Female Singer/Songwriter subgenre. If It Was You doesn't break new musical ground, but that doesn't keep it from being one of the more pleasant surprises to surface in recent months.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image