The twin lesbians from Canada have some interesting angles — they’re twins, they’re lesbians, they’re Canadian. Unfortunately, If It Was You (Vapor), a mishmash of alt-punk influences, is the least interesting angle of them all.
Don’t get me wrong. Tegan and Sara are like, totally cool and stuff. They, like, opened for The Pretenders and that old guy, Neil Young. And track one lends itself to great optimism, with a classically-styled riff ripped straight from Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. I’m no riot grrrl, but I do have a soft spot in my heart for the angry post-punk female persona. Unfortunately, it’s a creature that’s been pimped dry by the industry, and Tegan and Sara are either victims of that pimp or opportunists.
If It Was You exists in that PG-13ish purgatory between pop rock and pop punk, committing to neither and sounding vaguely angry, but only in a “you’re not the boss of me” sort of way. Most of the time they stick to straight-on rawk of the Goldfinger variety, a hopelessly played out genre not made fresh by the two young crooners, be they queer or Canadian or whatever.
At times, the highly disparate vocals of the twins sound unpleasingly Powerpuff, especially chorus-wise. The tepid crescendos of “Under Water” only make the vapid lyrics that much less interesting, never rising beyond radio-ready fervor. “You Went Away” similarly coasts on stock rhythms, tossing in the obligatory Green Day-esque abrupt acoustic break.
The album succeeds on a certain level, and if your expectations are low, it should suit just fine. It’s all bubbly, summery pop, but it feels like a splash of Sun-In when what you really want is the full bleach job.
One full bleach job, coming up! Emma Anderson and Lisa O’Neill are one lovely trapeze act indeed, and they did it without a minority sexual preference, Canada, or splitting an egg. Known collectively as Sing-Sing, The Joy of Sing-Sing (Manifesto) is their debut album, released on the heels of a slew of underrated singles, each one of which blow away most anything in this genre.
The singles remain the album’s strongest points, culminating with “Panda Eyes,” a story about a girl who commutes to Earth from her home on the moon every day and acquires dark circles under her eyes as a result. If such silliness sounds too airy for you, ignore the lyrics. They’re secondary to the pop rhythm that drives the album forward, though if you choose to hear them out, they offer such breezy hooks as “Your New Year’s resolution is to try and keep your feet on the ground”.
The new tracks shine nearly as brightly, most notably “Everything” and the New Wavey “You Don’t Know”. In fact, the energy and bounce of the album never lapses once — a rare occurrence on a full-length release.
The Joy of Sing-Sing is a subtle mood elevator, a big Belle and Sebastian-ish drugged, dopey smile. It sparkles in a genre that often lacks any sort of luster, eschewing shoe-gazing mope for cloud-gazing warmth. Songs like “Far Away From Love” are bright and sunny without being corny — or maybe they are corny, and that’s why you like them. While most bands insist on taking themselves so damn seriously, Sing-Sing take their music seriously and keep their goofiness intact.