Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Anatomy of Tegan & Sara

Casey Dorrell

Tegan and SaraIn the last two years, life has been good to Canadian twin sisters, Tegan and Sara. The two started playing guitar at 15, creating the band PLUNK now self-described by the twins as "wussy punk (no drums or bass)" and "really bad." Apparently they began Sara and Tegan when some guy broke their P.A. system at a garage show they were putting on. The new band was a quiet acoustic affair and had less need for a P.A. When they made their first album they decided on a name change to Tegan and Sara, not wanting to be lost in the Sarah Harmer and Sarah Slean hype. Their biggest regret is not having gone with the name, Tegan vs. Sara, a later fan suggestion.

2003 saw them touring with Matt Sharp, Ben Folds, Ryan Adams, and Hot Hot Heat at different points throughout the year after releasing "If It Was You", their third album. On September 14th, 2004, They released their newest album, "So Jealous", which which marked a continued shift away from their Ani Difranco-style debut toward less wordy pop. They also took time out on their website to promote the hardcore punk band, The Reason, among other indie acts.

This year, though, the group's success began to really take on a momentum of its own. First they began recieving more notice from mainstream publications. Rolling Stone named "So Jealous" one of the top 50 albums of 2004 while Spin aired a live performance with the twins on their website. The press and sold-out performances got Tegan a little over-exciting, causing her to declare Canada's faux-capital city, Toronto, renamed to "Tegan and Sara Land". The group also had good company earlier this month at Coachella where they were sandwiched between indie favourites, the Arcade Fire and Fiery Furnaces.

Tegan and Sara
They Put Out Great Albums But Sometimes Have Trouble Singing in Key Live

On top of this, they've been opening for the Xbox loving band, The Killers, and will be doing some opening shows for Weezer later on. The pairings with both are fitting. Tegan and Sara began with a sound almost like an Ani Difranco tribute band with dirgy, folk-rock songs that favoured wordy, quasi-political lyrics over hooks and riffs. The Difranco comparisons weren't helped by the fact that they are twin females. And gay.

"We're proud to be gay. But I believe that our music does not have a sexuality. I don't think you have to be straight to identify with Bono or Chrissie Hynde," said Tegan last month.

Their 2003 release marked a pointed move away from their Difranco-esque beginnings toward pure pop, and their 2004 album, "So Jealous" completed the shift. Their new, almost power-pop sound fits in nicely with Weezer. As for their tour with new-wave revivalists, the Killers, Tegan and Sara do have a sort of 80s aesthetic to their sound. They grew up listening to 80s music, released a David Bowie cover, and named one of their tours, "Born in the 80s". Still, the 80s are more a musical influence or loose template for the group rather than a defining characteristic as it is for the Killers. Aside from touring with Weezer and the Killers, for most of March they were on tour with the Ditty Bops.

In early 2005, they made their first appearance on the second best late night show, "Late Night with Conan O'Brien". But their real television break hasn't yet been widely noted. Tegan and Sara are, apparently, the favorite band of someone working the new television show, "Grey's Anatomy". The show is yet another hospital drama that follows "five interns [as they] struggle to form friendships in this most stressful and competitive atmosphere". The competitive atmosphere being Grace Hospital where the interns are cut-throat . . . and sleeping with each other. And hot, as all doctors are, of course. Aside from the Canadian connection of actress, Sandra Oh (of movie fame, notably "Sideways" and "Last Night"), there's the Tegan and Sara favouritism.

Tegan and Sara and Grey's Anatomy
Tegan and Sara on Grey's Anatomy

The show's not particularly good, but the music is pretty great. On the second episode, I noticed a Tegan and Sara song playing, but didn't think too much of it. I saw it a few times since and every time, without fail, there has been a Tegan and Sara song on it. It turns out that in the show's eight episodes, they've played five of the fourteen tracks off "So Jealous". Tracks played are as follows:

  • Episode 2: "You Wouldn't Like Me"
  • Episode 3: "I Won't Be Left"
  • Episode 4: "Where Does the Good Go"
  • Episode 7: "Downtown"
  • Episode 8: "Fix You Up"

My theory is that whoever's responsible for the music on the show went to see a Ditty Bops and Tegan and Sara show in march (Ditty Bops have been played more than once too). Regardless of whether you're a fan of Weezer, the Killers, or Grey's Anatomy, Tegan and Sara are worth checking out. My favorite album of theirs is the 2003 release "If It Was You" which finds them halfway between folk-rock and power-pop.

For Fans Of: Ani Difranco (first two releases), Melissa Ferrick, Rilo Kiley
(To be fair, these are more folky groups that don't really accurately represent Tegan and Sara's latest release)

Tegan and Sara Discography:
Tegan and Sara - Under Feet Like Ours Under Feet Like Ours (99) Tegan and Sara - This Business of Art This Business of Art (00)
Tegan and Sara - If it Was You If it Was You (02) Tegan and Sara - So Jealous So Jealous (04)

Tegan and Sara - Empty in Between (B-Side)
Tegan and Sara - Come On Kids (B-Side)
Tegan and Sara - Love Type Thing (B-Side)
Tegan and Sara - Walking With a Ghost (Remix)
Tegan and Sara - I Ran (so Far Away) (Live Flock of Seagulls cover)
Tegan and Sara - Buried Alive (Unreleased)
Tegan and Sara - Morning Comes (Unreleased)
Party Ben - Tegan and Sara vs. Mylo (Mash Up)
Tegan and Sara- Monday Monday Monday (Video)
Tegan and Sara - Living Room (Video)
Tegan and Sara - I Know, I Know, I Know (Live Video)
Tegan and Sara - Full Edmonton Set (Live .rar Video)
Tegan and Sara - The First (Spin Video)
Tegan and Sara - Hype (Spin Video)
Plunk - They're Waiting For You
Rilo Kiley - The Execution
Rilo Kiley - Portions for Foxes
Ani Difranco - Not a Pretty Girl (or here)
Ani Difranco - Self Evident
Melissa Ferrick - Freedom

Comments on "The Anatomy of Tegan & Sara"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (22/5/05 2:28 am) : 

hey all you out there that listen to these two, may i add awsome, sisters. i have to commend you casey because they are awsome and need so space on your website. "yeah yeah yeah.. tegan and sara on caseys' website.... i will visit much more yeah yeah yeah....."
new song for you.
well i listened to the downloads.. good show chap!
well i must go and listen more... later
-girl with a lot less hair then normal


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Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5/2/07 10:27 pm) : 

how do I download the songs....please help. i just keep going to a strange page


Blogger Cathryn said ... (28/8/08 11:15 pm) : 

Hiya, I was just wondering if you had the mp3 files of those songs, still. I realize that this article is like three years old, but it would be like AWESOME if you could send them to me. Get at me at, pleeease!



Anonymous Anonymous said ... (24/1/09 4:42 pm) : 

Most of these unreleased and b-side songs can be found on their fansite.


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