By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
Sainthood's music is at once sophisticated and accessible, and rich with sonic texture. The start of "Arrow" features riffs manipulated to sound like cranking gears, while "Someday" fizzes with candy-coated keyboards and playful harmonies, à la Mates of State. And yet the album isn't all pretty pop: "Hell" and "Northshore" are punk-folk barnburners, while melancholy mood pieces such as "On Directing" and "The Cure" resemble gloomy alt-rock from the '80s. In fact, it's not a stretch to say that on Sainthood, Tegan and Sara very much feel like this century's worthy successor to the Cure.
The album's title comes from the Leonard Cohen song, "Came So Far for Beauty"; Sara used lyrics from Cohen's song in what was going to be the title track of the record. While the song didn't make the album (they couldn't get clearance to use the lyrics), the essence of its words still haunt Sainthood.
"It had absolutely become part of the record — the idea of sainthood, and the idea of working at something and almost going to great lengths to change yourself to be the perfect person for someone, and practicing at being good," Tegan says. "It all really summed up exactly where we were on the record. It was second-best to just have the title and not have the song, but in the end, it ended up being the right decision, and I'm glad for it.
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"The idea of sainthood and this record — Sara and I were both on the verge of being in new relationships and dating," Tegan adds a few minutes later. "And with that comes a lot of anxiety, because you don't want to bring all this shit from your past into the relationship, but you also don't want to ignore everything that's happened in the past.
"It's important to have this almost report card to remind yourself of what works and what didn't work. It's important that a lot of the work that you do is done on your own," she continues. "You don't want to change for someone else, but you do want to change something, so you don't repeat the same mistakes. The song, the themes and the context of the songs created this really amazing place for Sara and I to play with ideas and themes."
And yet when reading over Sainthood's lyrics, these ideas aren't obvious or direct; they've been manipulated and modified so that the themes need several close readings to parse. It's just another example of how smart their music is — and what makes Tegan and Sara so appealing.
"I trust that we've made something that anyone who already likes our band is going to like," says Sara Quin. "Even though I feel like it's a leap forward, I don't think it's a leap forward that's going to turn off anyone who's ever been into our music. But I also think that this record, more than any other record — the nature of the way it was recorded and the vibe of it and the sound of it — I really feel like this could be a great record for us to open up our fanbase."