No, you cannot judge a book by its cover. However, something about a CD’s cover art or packaging tends to draw my attention, make assumptions about the music and what not. You would think I’ve learned my lesson after reviewing an album featuring a visual ode to Jack Johnson (peace, king) but alas, old habits continue to die-hard. I’m happy to report that Tegan and Sara didn’t burn me as I held The Con, their fifth release, in my hand. Twin Canadian sisters, Tegan and Sara share duties on keyboard, piano and vocals (you have a better ear than me if you can discern the difference between two virtually identical voices). With a pop/emo-rock sound, The Con floats back and forth between happy-go-lucky tunes with a darker, more sublime collection of songs. Not the greatest album in the world, but it has more than enough decent tracks to get this reviewer’s seal of approval.
“Burn Your Life Down,” “Nineteen” and “Floorplan,” three songs which follow one another, has a story-like feel to them, a group of fleshed-out tracks that reminded me, to a small degree, to the end of Abbey Road, with a cohesiveness that highlights the group’s potential (“Floorplan” being my personal favorite of the three, by the way). The absolute gem of the album is “Are You Ten Years Ago,” a complete departure from the rest of album, with a bouncy hip-hop influenced beat and overlapping vocals; a dark song that, at the same time, begged for a verse from an emcee (Ludacris’ ability to ride and murder beats would’ve been lovely here). The song shows off Tegan and Sara’s musical maturity and flexibility, leaving you wondering what else they have hidden in their aural arsenal. Thumbs up for other tracks such as the title song, “Hop A Plane,” and “Dark Come Soon.”
I can imagine hearing portions of The Con on college radio stations or even seeing a video on VH1 (no, that is not a critique, just an opinion). I’m a little shocked that they haven’t made more of a splash, but that’s neither here nor there. In any event, The Con is a balance of bubble gum and depressants, a smile-frown mixture carved out with solid musicianship and well-crafted songwriting. While I might not run out to buy their sixth album when it drops, I am certainly pleased with this current effort. If nothing else, it’ll get repeat plays from me. What more can you ask from an album?