Tegan and Sara are a band. It feels weird to call them a band when it's just the two of them (plus whoever's in their backing band at the time), but wikipedia calls them an "indie pop singing duo" and that's worse, so let's go with 'a band'.
They are both lesbians. No, they're not dating. They're identical twins. Their faces are incredibly similar so I don't know why I even have to say that, but a surprising number of people think they're dating, so.
For a while it was very easy to tell them apart, but then Tegan took out her labret piercing, and their hair for the Love You to Death tour is more similar than it's been in years. But I think Tegan cut her hair sometime in the past few weeks, so hopefully it's simpler again. Sara has a narrower face than Tegan. You can also use their tattoos to tell them apart, but honestly we'll be here all day if I continue at this level of detail. When they're preforming, Tegan always stands on the left side of the stage and Sara on the right (from the perspective of the audience).
Both of them write songs, sing, and play instruments. Generally, they don't create together. They each write their own songs and then work together to polish and edit them. Whichever sister wrote the song is the one who sings lead vocals on it.
They have EIGHT albums. So many! And as far as anyone knows, they're planning on making even more music. We're gonna do this shit chronologically.
1. Under Feet Like Ours (1999)
Listen, maybe don't start here. There are some gems to be found, but they were babies (only 19 years old!), and it shows. Plus, about half the songs also appear on their second album, so you won't be missing a lot. It was initially released with the band name "Sara and Tegan" until they decided it sounded better the other way, changed it, and haven't looked back since.
My fav tracks
This is Everything
2. This Business of Art (2000)
Again, about half the tracks come from Under Feet Like Ours and it was only released a year later, so it feels a little young too. But by picking the best bits of their previous album and adding in new material, it definitely feels like a step up.
My fav tracks
Not With You
3. If It Was You (2002)
This is where we start to get a little less folky. More pop-y, more electronic, and definitely more upbeat. More love and breakup songs, less undirectional teenage angst.
My fav tracks
Living Room - This is a Tegan and Sara CLASSIC. If they play it at a show, it's usually in the encore, and the entire room ERUPTS when it starts.
I Hear Noises
4. So Jealous (2004)
This is kind of the beginning of their mainstream success. A lot more critical attention and some radio play for their singles. The first time I ever heard of Tegan and Sara was between this album and the next. I was in high school and fell for them hard, and honestly they've been my favorite band ever since.
My fav tracks
I Was Walking With a Ghost - The White Stripes covered it, which honestly probably contributed to T+S's popularity a lot, but I think that fucking cover is awful
Where Does the Good Go
Fix You Up
5. The Con (2007)
This is it. This is the album. This is the one that cemented their success and brought in many of their lifelong fans. And it's the reason I'm even writing this fucking thing in the first place. Today they announced The Con X - a tenth anniversary tour where they'll be playing an acoustic arrangement of all songs in album order, and I've been excitedly swooning about it all day, which is why Analise asked for a primer.
Hop a Plane + Soil, Soil - two tracks that appear in that order on the album and you have to listen to them in a row. The mood change is just everything and so perfect. I'm probably in the minority for putting Soil, Soil on my favorites list though, so do what you want with that...
Burn Your Life Down
Nineteen - listen, this probably isn't the best track ever, but it's so satisfying to wail along with. Great stuff at live performances
Back In Your Head
Dark Come Soon
(I know it's a lot, but count yourself lucky that I didn't just list the whole album)
6. Sainthood (2009)
Getting even more electronic here! This was probably their most experimental album I think. It's also the first time they co-wrote a song, "Paperback Head". That's not one of my favorite songs, but I'm glad they tried out something new.
My fav tracks
Alligator - which I mostly just love because Sara says it was inspired by Rihanna, which makes no sense to me when you listen to the song
Someday - for this one, I'm just gonna leave you with a quote the Autostraddle review, which imprinted on me very early after I first listened to it and now it's all I can think about every time I hear the song: "At first listen, this track may sound like an anthem a garage band might be inclined to write, one of those “fuck you, world! we’re gonna be famous one day!” tracks – but IT’S NOT, and that’s partly why it’s so great. This isn’t about how the world has wronged Tegan. It makes me think of a 17-year old Tegan getting over a first relationship and putting on a false bravado to prove she’s going to become something, like she’s trying to convince herself rather than anyone else."
7. Heartthrob (2013)
This is where people started throwing around the word 'sellout'. Which, in general, as a concept can just fuck off entirely. Yes, I think they were trying to reach for more mainstream success, but why is that a bad thing? More success = more chances to hear them live and a better likelihood of getting even more music. Plus, there seems to be this idea that musicians at the start of their careers have the most artistic freedom and are the most 'real', and after that they're doing what the record label wants. But that doesn't make any goddamn sense. Do you think 19 year old Tegan and Sara had any clue how to navigate the music industry and ensure that their artistic vision got out there? No. They've said in multiple interviews that they're originally piano players who were basically forced into the indie folk acoustic guitar thing. This album brings those keyboards to the forefront and they don't have to pick up guitars at all if they don't want to. Plus, no matter the change in sound, the lyrics are pure Tegan and Sara. That's never going to change.
My fav tracks
Closer - the music video is an amazing giant queer sleepover party and everyone should watch it
I'm Not Your Hero
Drove Me Wild
How Come You Don't Want Me
I Couldn't Be Your Friend
8. Love You To Death (2016)
It's just over a year old and they're currently touring on this album cycle. This is the album where (in addition to their songs about romantic relationships) they have some distance from some of the rough patches they've had as sisters over the years and can finally write music about that. White Knuckles and 100x are both songs inspired by those times. Plus, they made a video for every single song on the album.
My fav tracks
Boyfriend - their queerest song to date, don't let the name fool you
U-turn - oh god I love this song but the music video is terrible. Okay so it's not a terrible video in and of itself, but I don't like it at all for this particular song
Dying to Know
Hang on to the Night
Yay! You made it to the end of my babbling about each album, so do you know what that means? MORE BABBLING ABOUT OTHER THINGS. I'll try to keep it short though (mostly because I'm lazy and want to eat dinner soon)
- When they recorded The Con, they also filmed the entire thing and turned that into a movie with a 'chapter' (about 10 mins each) for each track. It is DELIGHTFUL and a great entry point for getting a feel for their personalities and learning more about them beyond just liking the music. A wonderful person has collected the chapters here and here
- Banter! A super important part of Appreciating Tegan and Sara is their concert banter. They talk more during shows than any other band I know of and a lot of it is fucking hysterical. It also feels like their way of setting boundaries, you know? They share so much and talk about things from their past very freely, which stops people from poking into their current personal lives more than they might otherwise. Maybe at some point I will make a curated list of my favorites, but see above re: lazy etc. For now, just search youtube for Tegan and Sara best banters. You'll find plenty.
- Live screw-ups. There is always one song that Tegan can not remember the words to or play all the way through. As soon as she figures it out, it'll happen to another song (Admittedly, this is happening less lately as they play more festivals and want to look good in front of randos who don't know much about them). Which leads to plenty of fabulous footage of Tegan fucking up a song and swearing. Sara also fucks up occasionally, but less often. Sometimes they power through, sometimes they restart, and sometimes they have the audience sing it. And I can't explain why it's so adorable and precious but it just IS. Again, not gonna link to vids, but the song "Northshore" has some of the best because it's so fast.
And now I'm done typing for real this time :)