Tegan and Sara write songs.
Sweet songs, and sad songs. Indie rock songs, and all out pop songs. The Canadian duo seem able to do anything, musically speaking, but forever return to the shapes, grooves, hues, and colours of a classic song.
New album 'Love You To Death' is perhaps the pair's most overtly 'pop' statement to date, laced with pop nous and some truly delicious pop melodies.
Clash invited Sara Quin to take part in our regular Foundations feature, and she happily obliged. Here's an introductory note: "I selected five albums that impacted me tremendously at different times in my life; often inspiring me to make big changes artistically."
So, without further ado, let's get stuck in...
- - -
- - -
Smashing Pumpkins - 'Siamese Dream'
Since childhood I had been deeply invested in music that was inspired by what my parents were listening to or what was on the radio. I had a wide range of musical influencers and had enjoyed access to their diverse album collections. Bruce Springsteen, U2, David Bowie, Kate Bush, Sinead O'Connor, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash etc.
But in seventh grade my world changed when a boy two grades above me in Jr. High introduced me to Smashing Pumpkins and the album, 'Siamese Dream'. He loaned me the CD and instructed me to play 'Today' first. I was immediately obsessed; the music was entirely new and mind blowing. By the end of the year I could sing that album forwards and backwards, every single word, every single guitar solo! It was my gateway into alternative music and would shape everything about my life from music to the way I dressed.
- - -
Ani Difranco - 'Little Plastic Castle'
We discovered Dilate in eleventh grade, but when Ani Difranco finally released 'Little Plastic Castle' in twelfth grade, it was an event. We went directly to the record store after school and then read through the liner notes on the ride home, anticipating and guessing what each song might sound like. Compared with her earlier work LPC feels like a pop record. It was ambitious and every song was a hit in our minds. The arrangements were exciting and every chorus was hooky as hell.
I think I must have listened to 'As Is' and 'Gravel' about 1000 times that first week. Up until that point I had fashioned my style of clothes and attitude off of male musicians. Ani was one of the first female artists who I could connect with; her clothes and hair a bold statement against the status quo, her use of pronouns to describe her relationships exciting and unique in a world of heterosexual voices. Bi-sexuality was always discussed in the press about Ani and although it might have annoyed her to be pigeon-holed (the way it would come to aggravate us in the early years of our career) it was a beacon of hope for me to have an example of a cool queer artist "making it" and being popular.
- - -
New Pornographers - 'Mass Romantic'
After a handful of years of touring professionally and struggling to find a scene for ourselves in Vancouver I stumbled upon a record by the New Pornographers called 'Mass Romantic'. I took it with me to Germany and we played it over and over in our tour manager's car. I suddenly wanted to explore the textures and rhythms that were exploding all over their album. It was dense and strange and moments bubbled inexplicably in my ears. I went home and reached out to the producers of that record and told them that they had to produce our next album.
We ended up working with John Collins and David Carswell on 'If It Was You' and 'So Jealous'. They were odd and wonderful and open to trying anything we wanted to. They insisted we were cool during a period of our career where we were intensely doubtful. Favourites tracks: 'The Body Says No', and 'Letter From An Occupant'.
- - -
Rihanna - 'Good Girl Gone Bad'
While writing and recording (Tegan and Sara's 2009 studio album) 'Sainthood' I became obsessed with Rihanna's song 'Umbrella'. I was delighted by the strange repetition and deconstruction of that single word (Umbrella) for the entire chorus. I remember thinking it was the most interesting song I had heard in years. There was something about the way she broke down words into super defined syllables, making blocks of sound that punched memorable stamps of hooks in every chorus.
I guess, in a way, I related to her approach of singing more than some of the other popular singers of that time; the rhythms of her words were as important as the melody. Pop music was starting to get strange and dangerous again and I was investing a lot of time listening to it.
- - -
Robyn - 'Body Talk'
I heard the song 'Dancing On My Own' and was immediately obsessed. Another important watershed moment for me during a period of time where I was struggling to connect our bands rock sound with music that I was actually listening to and excited about. This was another album without any guitar, but one that had a ferocious punk attitude wrought with emotion.
'Call Your Girlfriend' had a lyrical twist that reminded me of Prince and immediately made me want to be as cool and empathetic as Robyn. The songs sounded simple and yet they were so expertly written. Hang With Me was gorgeous and should have been a massive pop song. I loved the confidence and swagger of Robyn's aesthetic, her movement on stage and in video was so unusual and incredible, the friend you wanted to dance all night with.
- - -
'Love You To Death' is out now.