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Tegan and Sara, playing Cosmo pool, broadening audience with new album

It’s raining men!

Well, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement.

But at least there’s a light of drizzle of dudes at Tegan and Sara gigs nowadays.

The twin sisters with punching bags for hearts have cultivated a devout legion of female fans over the course of the past decade with their confessional alt-folk, whose lyric sheets often read like pages torn from a tear-stained diary.

But on their new record, and seventh overall, “Heartthrob,” they’ve cast their wet eyes at the dance floor with arms-in-the-air electro pop buoyed by pneumatic beats and synth lines bubbly as seltzer water.

It’s been a hit thus far, as “Heartthrob” debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard album chart in January, the band’s highest position yet, while first single “Closer” has worked its way up the rock, alternative, dance and adult pop charts.

Tegan and Sara had all of this mind when they wrote “Heartthrob,” as they’ve been candid about wanting to make a more commercially accepted album that expanded their audience — they’re candid about pretty much everything, really.

But there’s one thing they didn’t necessarily expect: more fellas.

Tegan Quin, for one, is all about it.

“I have so much in common with guys,” she says. “We both like girls, and we both kind of have trouble talking about our emotions.”

That last sentiment is a bit of a puzzler.

Quin has difficultly sharing her feelings?

You’d be hard-pressed to discern that from her songs.

It’s part of Tegan and Sara’s appeal, such unabashed, first-person expressions of longing and heartache, of desire and its consequences, of following love into one precipice after the next.

All of this is yearning is still palpable on self-explanatory “Heartthrob” songs such as “How Come You Don’t Want Me” and “Goodbye Goodbye,” yet even they come buffered with massive, mantralike choruses and twinkling keys.

Ultimately, though, these more emotionally turbulent moments give way to Tegan and Sara at their most revelrous on songs like “Drove Me Wild,” a dizzy, Cars-esque come-on, and the aforementioned “Closer.”

The album feels like a more expansive, authentic portrait of these two, who are chatty, effusive and eminently likable, both onstage and in person. They certainly aren’t a couple of woe-is-me sad sacks with storm clouds forever hovering about their heads — although some of their past material might suggest as much.

Beyond its sound, this is what truly distinguishes “Heartthrob”: capturing a different side of Tegan and Sara.

“I think that our records have leaned heavily on being brokenhearted, broken up, reflecting from a sad, broken place,” Quin says. “Sara pointed out to me very early on in the writing process that she loved the songs that I was writing, but that she felt that I was just treading on material that we had already covered and that I should really challenge myself to write outside of that box, that I wasn’t this sad, self-deprecating, lonely, brokenhearted person and that maybe I should try writing something that reflected a different part of me. Almost immediately, I wrote ‘Closer.’ ”

That song has proven to be a game changer, precisely the kind of cross-over hit that Tegan and Sara were aiming for — and which they had felt like they had penned in the past.

“I was tired of feeling like we were being held back,” Quin says. “I felt like our last couple of records had lots of really amazing, could-have-been-radio-friendly pop songs, especially ‘The Con.’ It was such a coming-of-age record. I couldn’t understand why we weren’t a bigger band, and not because of monetary reasons. I truly felt that we should be touching more people.”

Now, they’ve got that bigger, broader audience.

It’s almost as if “Heartthrob” foretold all of this, its largely festive sound that of a band fully enjoying the moment.

And in a way, it did just that.

“I do have moments of insecurity where it’s like, ‘Well, if I don’t play music, does that mean that I’m not interesting? Does that mean my life will suck?’ ” Quin says. “I definitely did a lot of soul searching before we put out ‘Heartthrob,’ and I feel like ‘Heartthrob’ was my response to that. I absolutely still feel like doing this. If anything, I feel like doing it more than ever.”

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at
jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

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