If there were any question that confessional pop darlings Tegan and Sara were heading in a new direction with their forthcoming album, Heartthrob (Warner Bros), the upbeat new single "Closer" dispells these doubts: plush layers of frosty keyboards and electronic twinkles surge underneath romantic lyrics flush with dizzy desire. The rest of Heartthrob is just as luxurious: the album references gentle soft rock, lush synthpop, and strident new wave, as well as artists like Prince ("Now I'm All Messed Up"), Kate Bush (the airy "Shock to Your System"), and even 'Til Tuesday ("I Was a Fool").
To achieve this hazy '80s fever dream, Tegan and Sara worked with a trio of producers: Greg Kurstin (Kelly Clarkson, Ke$ha), Justin Meldal-Johnsen (M83, Neon Trees), and Mike Elizondo (Eminem, Regina Spektor). All three men supported the pair's desire to stretch beyond guitar-based music. "They were like, 'Don't worry about the past, don't worry about the fans, don't worry about what you sounded like in the past,' " says Tegan Quin, by phone from Vancouver. "'You guys are the consistent force through your records. It's been 13 years, you've grown and developed as artists — don't look backwards so much, look forward. Let's talk about what you want to do, how you want to be perceived as artists.' All three had different ways of saying that, but ultimately, I left my meetings with all three of them thinking, 'These are producers who aren't going to be afraid of being too precious with the Tegan and Sara sound — because the Tegan and Sara sound is us.' "
With that confidence in hand, the Quins also pushed themselves as songwriters. Although the sisters have always been beloved for their honest dissections of relationships — both the good and bad parts — Heartthrob is perhaps the most direct they've ever been. Using clear, precise language, they look back on past romances with the type of wisdom gleaned only from having had plenty of distance from the relationship. "It's definitely a very vulnerable record, and I'm sure it's probably for a lot of different reasons, but probably a combination of age and time and experience," Tegan says. "I also think we're really confident — I don't feel as worried to say what I feel anymore."
She adds: "As a band, we felt like we needed to explore other sides of our experiences. I definitely tried to be a little more romantic — tried to remember the time period in my life long before rejection and tried to be pretty nostalgic about it. It was nice to think back to crushes and romance and not feel so depressed. Sara's side of the record is still romantic, but it's really dark and depressing. I think [Heartthrob] is going to be a fan-favorite, because it's going to be an emotional record for people."
TEGAN & SARA + THE KILLERS :: Agganis Arena, 925 Comm Ave, Boston :: December 17 @ 7:30 pm :: All-Ages :: $33 to $63 :: 617.358.7000 or ticketmaster.com