The Essential Tegan and Sara

Tegan and SaraTomorrow, Tegan and Sara release their album, Love You To Death. It’s the twin’s eighth record since their 1999 self-released Under Feet Like Ours.

Love You To Death is also their first album since Heartthrob, the album that officially marked their crossover to pop stardom with hits like Closer and I Was A Fool. Interestingly, Tegan and Sara’s climb to success has been gradual but impressively consistent, with each album outperforming the one that came before it. And while it isn’t uncommon for artists to improve upon previous records, T&S have done it for seven consecutive albums over almost two decades. Love You To Death is poised to continue that trajectory.

In advance of that album release, as a longtime fan, it’s important to be aware of the greatness that did come before Closer and Heartthrob, when they were but a well-kept secret. Here is a list of some of Tegan and Sara’s best and key recordings: The Essentials!

This Is Everything (1999)
This is a track from their oft-forgotten first album Under Feet Like Ours. While most of the songs from that record were re-recorded to make up This Business Of Art a year later, several were left behind, including this one. (Listen)

My Number (2000)
Their second album This Business Of Art has a consistently distinctive acoustic garage-rock sound throughout with the exception of My Number. While the entire record is exceptionally charming and definitive Tegan and Sara, My Number is more sonically mature compared to the others and as a result, sounds stronger as a stand-alone track than anything else on the album. If a Tegan and Sara song can be considered timeless, it would be this one. (Listen)

Superstar (2000)
One of the songs that appeared on both of their first two albums and was widely considered a fan favourite, often popping up as an encore in concert – until they stopped performing it, apparently because Tegan strongly dislikes it. The version on Art gradually builds to an explosive bridge before pulling back for a full recovery at the end, and it’s upbeat in a way early T&S songs weren’t. (Listen)

Monday Monday Monday (2002)
The first time I heard of Tegan and Sara was when I saw them perform as part of a summer festival in 2002. The song that stuck with me most was Monday Monday Monday and was what inevitably led to me picking up If It Was You several months later. At that point, they were gaining popularity on the college front with their particular brand of indie rock and distinct style.

Living Room (2002)
While Superstar stopped being a go-to song for encores, Living Room remains part of that grand finale in concert with lyrics that never fail to grab the entire audience and push them to sing along. (Video)

Don’t Confess (2002)
A Tegan and Sara ballad! While their third album was grungier and an all-around rockier affair than their previous ones, the closing track had soothing touch with heartbreakingly calming lyrics that ended an already-great record on a high note. (Listen)

Walking With A Ghost (2004)
By the time Walking With A Ghost came out, T&S were making waves beyond the Canadian indie rock circuit as it was their first minor hit on alternative radio in Canada and the US and eventually it got picked up by the White Stripes, who covered it for their EP titled Walking With A Ghost a year later.

Where Does The Good Go (2004)
So Jealous is a solid record from start to finish and is one of those albums that sounds better as the album rather than individual songs. Where Does The Good Go is one of the tracks that does work well on its own outside of the context of the album. It’s prominent placement in Grey’s Anatomy marked another turning point for T&S as it put their music in front of millions more people – helping push them to the next step. (Listen)

The Con (2007)
The Con is one of the most satisfying tracks to listen to in T&S’s discography with the many layers of guitars and synths over a fast-paced drum beat, it was their segue from the synth-rock of So Jealous into the synth-pop sounds that made up The Con and later records.

Are You Ten Years Ago (2007)
The drums on this song come from both live and programmed drums. Jason McGerr (Death Cab For Cutie) recorded live drums to beef up the programmed ones, resulting in a whole lot of depth on the song. (Listen)

Call It Off (2007)
The music and lyrics to Call It Off are so simple yet they’re also some of their best. The song is especially impactful because of the permanence in the line “but now we’ll never know” and the regret in “there’s a chance I’ll start to wonder if this was the thing to do.” (Video)

Someday (2009)
If there’s any T&S record that doesn’t quite line up with the trajectory of their progression, it’s Sainthood. The hype was there following their growth on The Con but for whatever reason, it didn’t fully click. But there are songs on the record that did harken back to their familiar style, such as Someday, that fit in well alongside their other songs. (Listen)

Feel It In My Bones (2009)
In 2009, DJ Tiësto, probably one of the biggest DJs in the world at that point, released a single co-written by Tegan and Sara. It wasn’t T&S’s first time on a club-ready recording, having had previous singles Alligator and Back In Your Head remixed (the latter had a Tiësto remix), but it was their first major radio hit across Canada and introduced them to new audiences and gave them new options to work with for the direction of their music. They also perform an indie pop version of it at their shows.

Closer (2012)
You can’t have a list of Tegan and Sara essentials without including their newest signature song, Closer, their first Hot 100 hit and their solid entry into the pop music world. It marked a stark departure from their indie sound of albums past but judging the direction each of their albums took compared to the last, it was the next natural step so despite what some disgruntled fans might say, it wasn’t an unexpected move for them. (Video)

I’m Not Your Hero (2012)
As much as I’m Not Your Hero could be in response to a relationship, it can also serve as a response to the then-inevitable criticism they received for “selling out,” as if to say, ‘we’re glad you love us, but we didn’t ask to be your hero and we need to be able to make our own choices.’ (Listen)

Now I’m All Messed Up (2012)
This song is very early-90s-era sounding Wilson Phillips/Divinyls pop, but also among the closest to their more innocent love conflicting lyrics from the So Jealous days. A nice bridge from the past to the present and a great fresh template for what Tegan and Sara’s sound has become.

Love You To Death is out June 3, featuring their newest essential Boyfriend! (Video)

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