The Con, Canadian duo Tegan and Sara’s fifth studio album, is an album I grew up with; as a 9-year-old, it opened me up to a whole new point of view that I had never experienced before. My mum did a good job of playing me the likes of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and The Stone Roses as well as Kelis, Amy Winehouse and Bjork on the school run, but I was really looking to discover my own set of faves at this point, and The Con marked the beginning of that journey. I mean, two openly gay twin sisters singing about their relationships and experiences in what is still a genre dominated by straight men? My tiny mind was blown.
The album’s 14 tracks showcase what I deem to be classic songcraft; heavy and sombre themes such as heartbreak and anxiety, handled with tact and a sense of warmth, which is a running theme across their discography. The Con marks the sound of them hitting their stride and refining who they are as a band, making it all the more riveting for fans like me.
two openly gay twin sisters singing about their relationships and experiences in what is still a genre dominated by straight men
Rather than review the original album in full, let’s cut to the content of the covers album. My standout track is LA synth-pop band MUNA’s explosive cover of ‘Relief Next To Me’, a nocturnal and polished reinvention of the original. It acts as a excellent continuation of the sounds they explored on their 2017 debut, About U. Elsewhere, acclaimed singer and producer Claire Boucher A.K.A Grimes (and HANA, forming the wonderfully-titled side-project ‘Trashique’) contributed a jittery and nymph-like take on ‘Dark Come Soon’. UK-based techno extraordinaire Kelly Lee Owens perhaps achieved the biggest transformation with a haunting, ambient take on ‘Soil, Soil’, which is absolutely transcendent. Some may criticise her for taking out too much of the original lyrics for her sparse arrangement, but I can only applaud her for remaining authentic to her production style. Other highlights include Shamir’s tense, twisted and beautifully skeletal cover of ‘Like O, Like H’ (which somehow made the song even darker) and CHVRCHES’ slow burning cover of ‘Call It Off’.
18 tracks may seem like a lot, but the bonus tracks are absolutely worthy of your time. It’s basically a whole hour of relentless talent, so what’s not to lov- WELL ACTUALLY, let me get one thing off my chest. THE Cyndi Lauper’s exceptional cover of ‘Back In Your Head’, the lead single from the original album and one of their most recognisable songs, being relegated to bonus track status over Ryan Adam’s anaemic attempt is a crime. It’s not awful per se, but it just feels a bit jarring alongside the surrounding tracks, whereas Cyndi’s take would’ve added a much-needed sense of light and airiness to what is a sombre section of the album. That’s my one real critique of this project, because otherwise it’s pretty darn-near flawless.
I can think of no better way of paying tribute to one of the most influential albums of my childhood than by getting a selection of my favourite artists to make excellent cover versions of these incredible songs. They really knocked it out of the park in terms of bringing a new life to these songs while remaining 100% authentic to who they are as artists. A triumph all-round, really.