Thursday, September 09, 2004

I was initially glad to see the NY Times running a review of the new Tegan & Sara album So Jealous, but I've grown more and more irritated by the article over the past few days. Part of me wants to go on a tirade about a writer who feels the need to start off with a history of lipstick lesbians since 2002 (mainly involving straight women pretending to be gay) before informing us that lesbian musicians have only mastered two styles of music (folk and punk), followed by all sorts of incisive comments like "the photogenic twins nonetheless push toward mainstream tastes with sparkling hooks and singalong choruses" (we know how those lesbians hate hooks and choruses) and "Their songs reclaim some of the fun and energy of 80's New Wave for girls who love girls" (rats, guess I'm not allowed to listen to the album) and "The album's best song is 'Walking With a Ghost'" (thanks, I wouldn't want to accidentally prefer another song that isn't the best one) and "this multilayered record is aimed at young women, gay and straight, looking for smart songs that explore the fun side of taking yourself very seriously" (am I reading the NY Times or YM?), and so on.

(Actually YM has a much better write-up on the's not online as far as I know...just a short blurb.)

I guess that kind of was a tirade. In case you're curious, the writer Laura Sinagra loves the New Pornographers and reviewed their last album here. Notice any difference in tone? Well, Neko does get referred to as "babe-next-door" but for the most part the article doesn't try to dictate the New Pornographers' audience and we get through the piece without an examination of the cultural significance of flying into a lesbian rage. (I mention the New Pornographers because a couple of NP related people produce Tegan & Sara of late.)

If the new Tegan & Sara album So Jealous were full of songs about Martina Navritolova and Phranc, or if their website featured photos of the Tegan & Sara Invitational Softball League, I might not have much of a point. But the fact is, you could listen to So Jealous (and the previous T&S album If It Was You) a million times without gleaning any clues about sexual preference. I had requested a copy of the press release that goes with the album, as well as their official bio: guess the number of times the word "lesbian" or any synonym for gay is used. (Answer: not once.) Maybe the Times dictated the nature of the article. Maybe they hacked it to bits. Who knows. It's sad, though, since if I hadn't already heard T&S the article would probably scare me away, unless I was a fourteen-year-old girl.

In fact, So Jealous is probably a good contender for power-pop album of the year. Much of it has an almost Wire-like simplicity (some of the drum parts sound very Pink Flag inspired to me) though it usually goes for big, multicolored Cars-like choruses. A lot of the songs start out in new folk territory for the first verse or so, but it's never much more than twenty seconds before the electric guitars and new-wave keyboards move in for the strike. With the right promotion, I could really see this album taking off. GQ seems to feel the same way (I'm not sure I'd call T&S "pixie-cute" unless pixies these days look like Aladdin Sane and spend a lot of time telling each other to fuck off).

I apologize to Laura Sinagra for daring to prefer anything to Walking With A Ghost, which is the best song on the album, but here are my two current picks:

You Wouldn't Like Me (bonus points for holding back the full band's entrance until nearly half-way through the song, and bonus-bonus points for saving the best hook for the last forty seconds), and

Fix You Up (mostly as an example of the kind of wonderful choruses they're pulling off, even when not in rock mode).

Any of the CD's other 14 tracks (plus hidden bonus track) might reasonably be a candidate for "best song on the album." Streams of Walking With A Ghost and two other tracks are still available at their official site.

Apparently there are upcoming stories about T&S due in Spin and Rolling Stone and Magnet. My fingers are crossed. So Jealous comes out on September 14th, though the European release is (I read) early next year.

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