Reviewing Tegan & Sara: Sainthood Track-by-Track

sainthoodcoverHello Autostraddle, this is Intern Emily! If you’re among those eagerly anticipating October 27th’s arrival (or Oct 23 if you live in Australia), the good news is that Tegan & Sara recognize our impatience and have decided to stream the entire Sainthood album on the internet RIGHT NOW! Coincidentally, I’ve prepared a track-by-track breakdown so that as you listen to the album, we can obsess together in the comments section. Crystal will be joining me for parts of this conversation because she has some residual feelings from writing the album review, but also because I have an epic Sara bias and someone around here has to be the voice of reason. Crystal has clearly edited this part in.

Isn’t this great!? If you’re not already jumping at the thought of hearing new Tegan & Sara songs then I’m not sure what else I can do for you. Seriously though, this is a very exciting time in our lives. Not only am I about to analyse each track in great detail, but you also have an opportunity to win a copy of Sainthood and have your name drawn out of Laneia’s fedora. And there’s still something that’s going to be better than all of these things combined showing up here really soon. I know, right? What could it be!

But for now, turn the volume up and GET READY.

Sara-Quin-glasses1. Arrow [Sara]

Emily: Tegan & Sara begin Sainthood with a risky track. To be honest, the first 30 seconds of Arrow scared me – “what the hell is this? Is the whole album like this?”. Comfort came when the chorus went back to the usual Tegan & Sara style.

Sara displays her strong vocals a lot on this album and especially on this track.  Arrow may be overlooked ’cause of the stronger tracks which follow it. But the more I listen to it the further up the favourite list it climbs.

Crystal: I was a little nervous when I heard the beginning of this track, but I was also excited. It was different, and not having a super strong attachment to The Con, I was ready for it to take me somewhere new. It did, too. There’s beauty in this track’s simplicity and the switchup to the upbeat chorus keeps things interesting. But I don’t understand the lyrics, I mean sugar spell it out.

Emily: I don’t know what this song is about, but I’d never claim to know what any Tegan & Sara song is about unless they explain it, especially Sara’s. She often rocks strange & cryptic lyrics.  I can’t tell if she’s the arrow or the target, can you?

Sometimes I feel like all of Sara’s lyrics are about sex, but very cleverly disguised.

I feel the breeze, your feathers of an arrow
Out in my yard, feathers of an arrow
I take my aim, you feel me coming close

2. Don’t Rush [Tegan]

Emily: Don’t Rush is unmistakably Tegan & Sara, yet it wouldn’t have fit any prior albums because it’s definitely a point they’ve grown to. With heavy, metronomic synths pulsating under a hooky verse and even hookier chorus, Don’t Rush makes me want to dance like a crazy person. This is definitely as a pump up song. You know who’s pumped? Crystal. Srsly, she has not shut up about this song.

Crystal: This song has been stuck on high rotation in my head for WEEKS. I’ve been singing it out loud, non-stop, and this has attracted a lot of curious and also frustrated stares because it’s not released and so no-one knows it’s an actual song yet. And to be fair my rendition is also a little pitchy. I think the bass line on this track makes the strongest first impression on this album, it’s killer.

Emily: Though the tune is “less emotional” than others, Tegan still successfully breaks my heart: I’d love to find my other, love to find you… Or maybe I’m just single? Sigh.

Although Tegan hates Superstar, this track says still continues to enjoy spoken word. I don’t really like Superstar either and I’m not that huge a fan of the spoken word they used in Are You Ten Years Ago?, but I love the way she uses it here, especially in the bridge.

One way to erase bad ideas
I won’t see you when you arrive
One way to escape bad ideas well
I won’t cry to you
Not that you will mind

Sidenote: Riese and Alex love Are You Ten Years Ago?


3. Hell [Tegan]

Emily: Sainthood‘s first single, Hell, is a catchy, crowd-pleasing pop-rock song about an article Tegan read about her neighbourhood that described the four blocks as “hell”. Even though I have a hard time discerning what Tegan is singing in the verses, I can’t stop singing along with the chorus.

As stated in the press release, “Inspired by emotional longing and the quiet actions we hope may be noticed by the objects of our affection, Sainthood is about obsession with romantic ideals.” Tegan & Sara can try as they might to write about other things, but they always seem to come back to love and relationships – not just the sexual,  but all of it. That’s how I relate to Tegan & Sara the most – no matter how hard I try, everything seems to be about love even when it’s not about relationships.

This track is probably about Tegan’s relationship with herself, living in a place that someone else has described as hell. Described by Tegan here, “I wrote these songs [Hell and The Cure] about the neighborhood, but they’re really just metaphors for love.”

I know you feel it too, these words get overused
When we get up and over it and over them, up and over it and over them

4. On Directing [Sara]

Emily: I love Sara Quin. Let that be known. Why do I love Sara Quin? Because she wrote Back in Your Head and THIS. This is perfect, this is Sara, this is the kind of amazingness I expect and she’s delivered, she always does. She sings “Go steady with me. I know it turns you off when I get talking like a teen,” and I think everyone, everywhere – except maybe Crystal – knows what she’s talking about. How many times have you tried to talk to someone and ended up sounding like an idiot? Like a high school kid? All you want to say is “go steady with me”.

Crystal: I guess I am the exception because while I like this song fine, I don’t really relate to it. The only response it evoked from me was: ‘Yeah, you’re right – sometimes it is a turn off when people talk like a teen.’ But to be fair, I didn’t really relate to Back In Your Head either and so these tracks are probably not written for me, only for people with hearts.

This song makes me think of a high school science class, when you’re supposed to be looking through a microscope but you keep glancing sideways at the cute girl over there.

Emily: While I appreciate our differences, I just need to say OH MY GOD I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU DON’T RELATE TO BACK IN YOUR HEAD. Moving on.

There are topics that are clichéd, y’know. Like love, for example. But I think what distinguishes a good writer from a great writer is their ability to write about common topics but make them sound new, different, exciting, profound – those who make you think, ‘wow I never thought of it like that before’. Tegan & Sara do it time and time again, see: Dark Come Soon, Back In Your Head, etc. Now I’m adding On Directing to the list.

This song makes me think of a high school science class, when you’re supposed to be looking through a microscope but you keep glancing sideways at the cute girl over there. Unrequited love hurts. Also, the drums on this song are amazing.

You directing me, you dressed up I lose my grip, I lose my focus
Make those eyes at me, I lose my grip, I lose my focus

5. Red Belt  [Sara]

Emily: What is this song about? I have no idea, Sara won’t tell us.

Red Belt is a real gem that could easily be overlooked because it’s right after On Directing and is a little slower and could get lost in the mid-tracklist vortex. Like I said in our Sainthood album review, if you listen to Tegan & Sara as background music then you’ll probably never fully appreciate them. I urge everyone to listen to Red Belt carefully, because it has become better every time I’ve heard it. Sara’s voice is so soothing. Also, I love the weird keyboard thing in the background. Crystal says that’s not a technical term but whatevs.

If you didn’t believe me when I said Sara is a lyrical genius/weirdo, maybe you’ll catch on when she sings “I’ve got a red belt around my mind. Hands tied, around these words. I wish you’d call but I know that you’re out tonight.” Do you hear that? That’s the sound of my heart breaking.

Crystal: I still don’t get it, lyrically. However this is one of my preferred ‘Sara songs’ on the album, it’s very well written and I particularly love the electro in it. I continue to have no idea what she’s singing about, however I am starting to form the opinion that maybe Sara’s songs are impervious to interpretation, that she is far more clever than I and that I should just accept this.

Slow down, you have a tendency to rush back into your past
Slow down, you transfer all your weight and disappear
You kneel, to condition all the feelings that you feel

6. The Cure  [Tegan]


Emily: Like Hell, The Cure is also written about Tegan’s neighborhood in Vancouver. I’m guessing instead of “making the changes” she wanted to, she wrote this song, which is fine, ’cause, like, obvs, Sainthood.

The Cure isn’t risky or “out there”. It’s fairly predictable for most of the song, except for the bridge which builds up into awesomeness. Tegan always has a sort of pleading desperation in her voice which I love and can really be evidenced in her demo of Hop a Plane.

Oh, I must keep going so you must too.

Personally, I like Hell better.

Crystal: Personally I like The Cure better. I like the clipped words in the verses, the immediacy and the way she sounds like she’s rushing the lyrics to fit them all in. And I’m glad Emily mentioned the bridge because it is hands-down my favourite moment of this entire album. I don’t know how it’s possible for a few bars to make me feel this good.

I know the world’s been mean to you, I’ve got a cure, hold tight
I know the world’s been cruel to you, I’ve got a cure for its crimes

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Emily Choo started as an intern with Autostraddle when she was 18 years old. She's now 10 years older and lives in Toronto with her partner and cat. The defining moment of her career was when Riese said this about her: " I think Emily Choo is a very bright, 'poetically inclined' girl who pays attention to everything and knows almost everything (the point of stuff, how to read, how beautiful things feel, how scary things feel, etc.) but doesn't believe/accept/realize yet that she knows almost everything." She still doesn't believe she knows anything, so, thank you, Riese, for that.

Emily has written 100 articles for us.


  1. I’ve long had my tent pitched in Camp Tegan, but this album has defo made me want to by another tent and take up dual residency.
    On a youtube video and/or their website, Tegan said Hell is about her neighborhood but also about ‘trying to get the girl’ which she eventually did.
    Do you really think Night Watch is the first song they’ve done about their parents divorce? Maybe it’s Sara’s first, but I’ve always thought that Tegan’s song Welcome Home from Under Feet Like Ours was about her parents fighting and her dad leaving.
    I think I could probably make a song by song comment here, but I’ll stop. For now. I can’t even pick a true favorite yet, but Northshore and Hell are strong front-runners…

    • To clarify- it’s not that I’ve never been to Camp Sara, it’s just always been more like a fun vacation where I was happy to be home in the end. ;)
      I think I can only narrow this album down to a favorite half- Arrow, Hell, The Cure, Northshore, Alligator, The Ocean, Sentimental Tune.
      This is probably not healthy.

    • I might’ve missed Welcome Home. Anyways, it’s one of the few songs they’ve written about their parents. Except maybe Burn Your Life Down, about their grandparents. Anyways, technicalities ;).

  2. This line has me laughing so hard, I can’t handle it: “so these tracks are probably not written for me, only people with hearts.”

    Awesome job, Emily!!

  3. Crystal, yo uvocalize my feelings about The Cure entirely and beautifully.
    I’ve always been on camp Sara. Still after this album.

  4. This is the review I was hoping for for this record, you just described everything I “felt” when I first listened to it. I’ve always been a Tegan fan but Sara won my heart with The Con and now Sainthood. The first thing I thought when I finished listening to the record was:

    Sara is a fucking genius.

  5. I’m kinda missing the slow, acoustic, melodic style of Knife Going In, Dark Come Soon and Call It Off. That said, I do really like Don’t Rush, Hell and On Directing.

    Fantastic review, Crystal & Emily! Can I also make a request for a Sainthood: The Riese Review Edition ?


    Great great review guys. I’m so with you Crystal on the heartbreakingness of the lyrics. Tegan and Sara have always done this to me. The Con was released when my ex-girlfriend and I were breaking up and it was SO ABOUT US (“I was…. 19…. ohhhh yeahhhh”) and they got me through that break-up. Now this album provides a WHOLE lotta new awesomeness for me to relate to.


  7. I really love Alligator I cannot stop listening to it! To me the song is about a relationship that is over while still going on (if that makes sense) and the other girl is cheating and you still have to pretend that you care hence Alligator tears. I think my interpretation of this song might have more to do with me than what Sara is actually writing about but that’s what I love about Tegan and Sara songs.

  8. So upon finally giving all the songs a good listen ….. I have to go listen again! (also, i had to look up what alligator tears meant)

    I feel like tegan lives inside my heart and sara lives inside my brain.

  9. I might just be one of few people who could care less that Tegan and Sara have a new CD out. I used to like Tegan and Sara, still do for the most part but I am not a lezzy superfan. I actually hate most music other lesbians tend to gush over. I think it’s because their is only so much gushing about a band/movie/tv show I am willing to listen to before it completely turns me off. Kind of like my indifference for Mad Men and most Oscar nominated movies. I keep hearing about how something is the best shit ever and then I watch it and I’m like, “That’s what all the fuzz is about!”. Anyway, I just had to get that off my chest. Carry on.

    • I understand this, I’m feel similarly with many popular artists. Like Lady GaGa, everyone bangs on about how awesome she is but I just don’t understand it and I’m not certain if I ever will. [pls don’t fire me]
      But I also remember saying the exact same thing about Tegan & Sara back in 2007, and I guess somewhere something changed.

      • Crystal (and Shiva), again we share similar visions. I think several artists, movies, teevee series, theme parks, techy gadgets, etc; everybody is cheering over are just not that good or awesome. It’s just expressing your personal taste and I’m not scared to do that. Everybody should do so.

  10. I’ve only skimmed this so far BUT I JUST WANT TO SAY THAT I LOVE ‘ON DIRECTING’ SO, SO MUCH! It is so wonderful. Other favorites include The Ocean, Sentimental Tune, Northshore,and The Cure.

  11. I totally agree with you that last three songs really make this album. Someday is so great. I like On Directing, Red Belt, and Northshore a lot as well. But some of the other songs still have me scratching my head, especially Alligator and Paperback Head. This album is, I think, even less accessible than The Con. So I can’t really judge properly until I’ve had it on repeat for over a week.

    • Yeah, I agree. When I first listened to it I didn’t know how to feel, but now that I’ve gotten more familiar with the songs I’ve cemented my opinions more. But yeah, Paperback Head confuses me.

  12. I thought ‘The Ocean’ was about a long distance relationship (perhaps when they were touring or something) and she is nervous her lover is with someone else and like wise her lover is worried tegan is with someone else. But at the end of the day, neither of them has anything to worry about as she knows what she wants, what she wants is right here with (that person).
    She is insisting that the person stop crying over her, stop worrying about her… Because they have nothing to worry about?

    I’m loving Northshore too :-)
    I can say that I am still a dedicated member of camp Tegan!

    Loved the review :-)

  13. Wonderful review! Its times like this that I wish we were all face to face.
    3. Hell- LOVE! It’s that hooky, catchy, alt rock that I love.
    4. On Directing- LOVE! Sara at her best. She is a lyrical genius! I can’t decide if I like the album version or the live version better. Tegan’s vocals were so cool at rifflandia.
    5. Red Belt seems like it uses elements of karate as a metaphor about an incident in a relationship, shifting weight, kneel, conditioning. They use to be in karate. Shifting weight, kneel, conditioning.
    7. Northshore- LOVE. ITA with both of you
    8. Nightwatch- LOVE IT! It’s so eerie, dark, mysterious and thought-provoking. I think it’s from her parent’s perspective. It’s amazing how much awesomeness can come out of 5’2 feet
    9. Alligator- I like it but I LOVE the live version much better. I am not sure why. But I disagree with you on one thing Emily. I don’t find it abstract. I think it is one of the most direct songs Sara has ever written.
    10. Paperback- I like it. IDK what she is talking about but it’s nice.
    11. The Ocean- I like it. Alt, indie, tegan rock goodness!
    12. Sentimental Song- I like it, maybe even love! “Hard-hearted don’t worry I’m ready for a fight!” Oh Sara. This is a perfect blend of Tegan and Sara. Like if their two sounds were to produce offspring the first born would be Sentimental Song.
    13. Someday- I like it, except the second verse seems like she is rushing the lyrics in the beginning of the verse. Anyway, a great choice for an album closer.

    “There is no other artist/group that I care about more than Tegan & Sara.” ITA. For me it is a new love, a fun love, an expensive love, an obsessive love, a deep love, but a real love!!

      • Ha. Thanks. Even though I wrote the same thing twice.
        They use to be in karate and talk about it a lot. I use to be in Karate too. Like I said, certain things she says in the song reminded me of doing those karate championships or the tests to get your next belt.

        • yeah once you said karate i had an immediate vague memory that they mentioned it kindof recently, maybe while they were recording? plus yeah, all the banter with sara threatening to take tegan down, heh heh. can’t wait for them to start touring!!

    • Haha, I never thought of Red Belt as a karate song! I think I found Alligator abstract because I didn’t know that ‘alligator tears’ is an actual term. I thought she was just pulling that out of left field. Either way the meaning is still kind of obscure to me! Also, I agree with what you said about Sentimental Tune!

      • Oh okay, your from Australia right? I am surprise you all have never heard of that. Don;t you have alligators as pets? lol JK

        Yeah but now that you know what an alligator tear is, doesn;t the song seem pretty direct esp for a sara song?

        • Haha, Crystal is from Australia, I’m from Canada. But yeah, it does make it more direct but I still feel like there are layers to the song I don’t understand. I can’t believe I never thought to look up alligator tears! I guess it’s a mark of how weird I expect Sara’s songs to be.

          • I know what alligator tears are. It probably would have been helpful if I shared this information with Emily. Collaboration fail.

          • No, this collaboration is a win!! I posted it on lots of good comments

            one girl said ‘a BIG THANKS for sharing the “Autostraddle” review – I wish all reviewers would write a summary like that instead of using intriquate words and just write from their heart’

  14. There are moments of this album where I felt like I was hearing a lost track off of “Eight Arms to Hold You” by Veruca Salt or “This Is Our Emergency” by Pretty Girls Make Graves. Anyone else? Maybe just me.

    Anyway this is awesome and the album is great and now I just need to immerse myself in it for a week or two to really appreciate it. That’s what I did with The Con and now it’s one of my favorite albums evar. Awesome review, ladies!!

    • I think I see what you mean. Thank you for bringing up Veruca Salt, they’re one of my other favourite bands to talk about. I’d like for Tegan & Sara do a cover of Seether.

  15. Like what Sarah said above: “So I can’t really judge properly until I’ve had it on repeat for over a week.” But on first listen, I really loved it.

    With every album (with the exception of the con) they’ve released, I’ve hated it initially and it’s taken some time to grow on me. After hearing a little clip of Hell, I was skeptical – but still confident they were going to deliver something I’d eventually never want to stop listening to. I refused the leak and was planning on not listening to the stream either (cause I think cd’s sound best in the car on a first listen but that’s just me). But I had to give in and I’m glad I did.

    One of my favourite things about T&S is how they are consistently changing and creating a new, unique sound. And Sainthood definitely offers that in spades. I love the increase of loops and electro sounds. I even like Tegan’s angst anthem. I too miss the acoustic, quiet brilliance of songs like Soil Soil, Dark Come Soon, Fix You Up and Call It Off. I can’t quite name a favourite yet, but on first listen The Ocean was definitely the one that grabbed my chest the most.

    Oh okay this is a novel. Oops. /end feelings

    • I also had trouble getting into The Con, and even Sainthood. I think there’s a weird complexity about their songs that makes them hard to digest on a first listen.

      I listened to Soil, Soil today and I also realized that I kinda missed the piano ballads. But I’m still happy with the direction they took.

      • The hardest for me was If It Was You – cause it was such a huge departure from This Business.. but now it’s one of my favourites.
        I’m happy with the direction they took as well – it’s totally unique and still totally Tegan and Sara, while at the same time being completely unexpected.

  16. Also- I don’t think that Sara talks about sex. But she should. Can you imagine her voice on some sexy electronic beat? Like Kylie Minogue-Slow?
    I think they have a lot of untapped sex appeal that would really make the ladies and gents loose there shit. Like this new makeup/eyeliner thing….WORKING!

  17. This album embodies why I love Tegan and Sara so much. Sneaking in listens of this album between classes today has been great/exciting and listening through the entire album in the last hour has made me so excited to listen to this album over and over again.

  18. Um, Sentimental Song made me cry, like real tears. There I was sitting at my desk in the office, crying. My colleagues were concerned, but we figured it out.

  19. You guys are like the odd couple and I think you should review albums together all the time. Great reviews. After listening to each song, I have lots of respect for these girls as song writers, but…..yeah, I hate their voices. Please don’t ban me from the site or anything, I really do think the songs are good, I just don’t really want to listen to them any more.

    • You’re not the first person to say something about their voices. Personally I don’t think I could get tired of them, but y’know, to each his own!

      Crystal is lots of fun to work with. Maybe we will review more albums sometime in the future!

  20. I dont think Alligator is about something, persay, but more about explaining her flaws. I also feel like my ex will think of me when she listens to this song.

  21. LOVE LOVE LOVE! Sainthood is so fantastic! The Ocean is my fave right now, I think.
    On Directing definitely reminds me of high school unrequited love.
    Also: “Alligator Tears: Tears that are fake, or are meant to deceive. Same as crocodile tears.” according to urban dictionary and several other weird websites. I think I heard my mother use this expression when I was a teenager/when I would get dramatic/have a lot of feelings about something.
    I feel like Nightwatch is about a Sara breakup as compared to her parents’ breakup: “I’ve got grounds for divorce/it’s in my blood, this divorce”, maybe?
    WHAT IS RED BELT ABOUT?? I don’t know but I love it.

    • The Ocean might actually be on par with Someday for my favorite song. Or Sentimental Tune. I can’t decide.

      I HAD NO IDEA ALLIGATOR TEARS WAS A REAL TERM I think it actually makes the song more interesting.

      I love Red Belt too. Maybe one day Sara will explain what it means.

      • i love The Ocean! have like 3 or 4 other faves aswell but thats the top one so far. ace review!

        also now think it could be weird that I know what alligator tears are. could be because I sometimes talk like i’m 80 years old though.

    • I’m with you on your feelings re: Nightwatch. Emy was kind of the first thing I thought of, to be honest.

  22. I read this while I listened to the tracks. Instead of working.
    Awesome job Crystal and Emily.

    And, this:

    “… it’s very close to becoming my favourite song in Tegan & Sara’s entire catalogue, only marginally surpassed by Dark Come Soon and maybe also that song about the wherever all the trees went”

    … is amazing, because that song about where all the trees went is by far their best work. Retro review anyone?

  23. love this review!! i, too, huge sara fan; i’m amazed by the things she comes up with.
    overall i feel like the variety even without slower songs and track order is fantastic, really flows well. it may not be quite as deeply layered musically as The Con but sara’s lyrics in particular go beyond metaphor to the crux of feeling.
    tegan is a bit wordy for me, also possibly a little bit cliched? ‘mark my words i might be something someday’? optimism and hope and all those good things to be sure, but eh..
    i always listen melodically first and there are so many hooks!! not a single song is not catchy. minor keys work really well in don’t rush and night watch. rhythmically northshore is a standout, 2 minutes of 3/3 to 2/4 dirty rock, amazing.
    also also, sentimental tune and someday being in the same key makes me think of them being like sara’s album closer, and then tegan’s album closer.
    other notes, i think sentimental tune is amazing, but the first time i listened to it i couldn’t help thinking of the part on the con DVD where tegan wants the drum part on nineteen to be less chug-chugging and more flying V, anyone else?

    • When I first heard Someday I was really worried it was a cheesy sell out, but after listening to it a lot, I don’t think it is at all. It has incredibly potential to be cheesy but Tegan made it personal rather than creating a distance between her and the listener, which makes it more sympathetic.

      • it is true, it gets less and less cheesy every time i listen to it. i think it works really well as the album closer, it might not fit in well otherwise.

  24. also i forgot to say, i think sara’s lyrics are definitely about sex, she hears people arching for god’s sake

  25. You are totally right Emily! I do feel like On Directing and Sentimental Tune are connected. I think that’s why they immediately became my 2 favorite songs on the album. It also helped that I can really relate to them right now. Sad face, kinda.
    I’ll just be completely honest and say that I loved all of Sara’s, songs right away, because I am a Sara lover. I am very happy with how well Tegan’s, songs came out. I think they’re so good!

  26. Sainthood is simply fantastic. The reviews are lovely too. You ladies say everything my mind can’t form into words, AS never ceases to amaze me. I love nearly all of these songs; I can’t begin to choose my favorite. (scratch that, On Directing?) Though I am a major Sara fan, both Tegan and Sara have managed to capture and engulf my heart in so many different thoughts/feelings. Sheesh.

  27. oooh ‘sentimental tune’ kills me! i keep listening to the whole album just waiting for the last two songs.

    emily and crystal, you two make an ace [australian!] reviewing team.

    • Thanks! I think Emily and I work well together because we’re an Australian and a Canadian. In my mind it sounds like the set up for a joke, how could that not be ace?

      “Emily and Crystal walk into a bar…”

  28. re: red belt. I enjoy it so much, but I feel like it’s going to torture me …trying to establish WHY I like it so much is gonna drive me nuts.

    early favorites also include The Cure, Arrow, and The Ocean

  29. As I promised, I would leave a comment. The CD is nothing less than what is expected of T&S and I really enjoyed reading the review. Two very different mind’s with a common love for a group is a good read.

    Weird note, I really did NOT like the electro in the background of red belt. My two cents.

    • Thanks, Brendan. I think the keyboard thing (never gonna know the technical term) in Red Belt is super cool. You should listen to it again until you agree with everything I say.

  30. I really don’t know how many times that I’ve listened to this straight-through, but i love it each time a little more and in different ways. what i’m looking forward to most is after i know the lyrics by heart, is when i’ll be listening to the song and a turn of phrase will catch me off guard and then i’ll fall in love with it all over again. don’t really know what are my favorites yet, but they’ll come out soon enough.

  31. P.S. Is there any word on Wrists, Light Up, and It Was Midnight? Will there be reviews of those? (just wondering) Cause, yaknow… not only will we be able to listen to our Sainthood CDs in the car on the 27th, we will be getting a couple moreeee songs. (if you use iTunes) Eeek!

    • We haven’t heard these tracks yet, but maybe the label can hook us up with them. I don’t know about Emily but I’ve pre-ordered the physical record, not the iTunes edition, and so I will not hear them otherwise.

  32. Um, I think you two have just done for music reviews what fantastic recaps do for television shows. even the good ones.

    • ot: Riese I have to say that your Lword recaps is what got me hooked on AS! I loved them. You are really a funny and clever writer. I started reading the recap as I watched the show. Reading (& watching) really made the show for great for me!

  33. Re: Red Belt, I think they explain the inspiration in the Rifflandia video, the movie “Red Belt,” which is about karate. Still pretty abstract though.

    I have listened to the album about 4 times now tonight and am falling in love with it more and more each time.

    And Crystal, my life felt like “Back In Your Head” when The Con was first released so I actually totally get that one.

    I can’t pick a favorite track yet, I feel like some of these might pas “Dark Come Soon” for my all time gave T&S track though.

  34. Am I the only one unabashedly representing the pro-Tegan contingent? Oh well…

    I’m holding judgment on my favorite tracks but I’ll find out soon enough when one of their tunes gets stuck in my head tomorrow.

    To Crystal and Emily, great job with the review – future collaborations are a must for you two. And to Crystal, you really hit the nail on the head with your perspective. You had me nodding my head in agreement, well, up until the last track, “Someday.” I’ve listened to the album 3 times but I feel like I’m missing something – it seems like a lot of people simply love it and I think it’s my least favorite track on Sainthood. I’ll give it some time though. Who knows, it may grow on me.

    As far as “Our Trees” go, that is my least favorite Tegan and Sara song. That sounds bad but I like, love, or have an unhealthy infatuation with everything else they’ve put out but that is the one and only song I do not like and often skip when listening to UFLO. Just my opinion.

    I’d also like to say that Lynne has one of the best comments so far: “I feel like tegan lives inside my heart and sara lives inside my brain.”

    • It’s difficult to articulate what it is about ‘Someday’ that I’m so attracted to. Maybe it’s one of those songs where – similar to ‘Back In Your Head’ – relatability on a personal level plays a big part in whether you’ll like it? I enjoy that it’s rallying, it makes me want to achieve things.

      My love for “Our Trees” runs very deep, but admittedly for for the wrong reasons – mainly the lyrics: terrible / Awesome. They make me grin like the idiot I am.

      • Fair enough. I completely understand about relating to a song – my favorite T&S song (the one that got me to really look at them after I first heard of them with “Walking With A Ghost”) is “Nineteen.” Granted, it’s a good song but probably not most people’s favorite.

  35. This was the best review of the album I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot of them), maybe the best album review ever.
    You should try to interview them someday.

  36. As one of Crystal’s BFFs, I’m so not surprised she doesn’t relate to “back in your head,” I feel like Crystal is the person on the other end of that story who’s like “get me out of your head!”

    • Ha! Funny, I was just now telling Emily that the main reason I don’t relate to ‘Back In Your Head’ is because wanting to be back in someone’s head doesn’t gel with me, that hopeful yearning … erm yes, the review is long published and we’re still deep in T&S analysis.

  37. Thank you for sharing your review with us – I agree with the person above me – reviewers should learn from you two =)

    I’m a music junkie so I’ve read a lot of reviews over the years and I’ve never come across anything quite like this – keep up the excellent work!

    /Sara Andersson

    • Thank you! A lot of hard work went it to it. Also I don’t think i’m a real music reviewer like Crystal, I just have a lot of feelings.

  38. Wow! Very nice review! It had me laughing and agreeing (and maybe crying a little while reading the part on Someday). I may find myself incredibly partial to Tegan’s contributions on the album, but Sara really has outdone herself here. It has taken me longer to get used to Night Watch as opposed to the other tracks, but I finally realized how I could relate to it. Paperback Head and Hell remain the two tracks I’m not too fond of. Hell provided me with a good sense of the album, but in my opinion, it’s not as good as the rest of it. And then there’s Paperback Head… well, I think I just don’t get it is all. “You have to become what your fans see/Paperback head, you get carried away/Stitch up your spine/Get the suitors away.” Uh, what? Maybe they’re talking about themselves and I just don’t get it because I’m not in the down low with their personal lives? I don’t know.

    • Paperback Head has grown on me but it’s definitely one of the weirdest songs in terms of lyrics.

      • Definitely agree. I think that maybe I secretly like it because I found myself singing it to myself while I was shopping. Now I can’t wait for the bonus tracks they’re including with the iTunes purchase. Judging by how Sainthood has turned out, I have really high hopes for them.

        • Eh? What happened there? I had a random afterthought: I remember hearing something about the song “I Won’t Be Left” having to do with their parents. Something about Tegan having called her dad and he was listening to a song that he would listen to with T&S’s mum.

  39. Ok I’ve got it. Favorite songs as of right now (in no particular order): Hell, On Directing, The Cure, The Ocean, Someday. But they’re all amazing.

    And I like T & S equally, I do not have a favorite. That would be like Sophie’s Choice or something.

    There is something about “Someday” that makes me really really happy. I’m a visual person so when I listen to music I think about images and I think about what I’d do if I directed a music video for it, etc. I feel like “Someday” is a big song. Like a huge song. I’ve always thought the same thing about “Dark Come Soon,” like they’re almost anthemic? I dunno. I am thinking about this too much probs.

  40. Hard to beat this review of Sainthood, it was fun to read, eventhough I do not relate, as a non native English speaker the lyrics do not have the same impact, ie. they are primarily just sounds.
    Also, am I losing my mind or did Crystal have a change of heart for Paperback Head? I remember reading she’d rather Tegan and Sara keep writing songs separately if that was the result of their co-writing exercise.

    • You’re not losing your mind! A week passed between writing the first review and then this one, during which I listened to the song a million times and had a change of heart. I think I attempted to compare this track to others when there was no basis for comparison.

      And then I called up Tegan and was all, “Hey Tegs, what’s with Paperback Head?” and she was like, “dude, it was our first time!” and then I was all, “that’s fair, I remember my first time.” Y’know, paraphrased.

  41. i love this album. so. fucking. much.
    i think sentimental tune is becoming my favorite off the record,
    i find myself singing it all the time.
    what really enhanced the album for me was meticulously transcribing the lyrics while i had swine flu over the weekend- i’m sure i would’ve loved it no matter what, but this helped me really love all of it from the start.
    a lot of the effects on the album reminds me of intros for discovery channel shows?
    not that it’s a bad thing, just curious haha.

  42. I love this album and I LOVE this review!
    I can’t really say which twin’s songs I like best- Tegan’s tend to be more insta-love for singing along, where Sara’s take a couple of listens to appreciate the lyrics.. but in the end I end up loving them all equally.

  43. I love the world right now. (especially Tegan and autostraddle) Only thing left to do is decide whether I want to go to the D.C. or Richmond Tegan and Sara Experience…
    I wish I had something else witty to say about the awesomeness of these interviews, but I’m stumped. It’s just so good!

      • Hey I can’t find your earlier comment, but I know you asked about the bonus tracks somewhere – just letting you know we’ve now got our hands on ‘Wrists’ and ‘Light Up’ and will be adding them to the review soon.

  44. Pretty sure its just me but does the beginning of Someday remind anyone else of Sonic the Hedgehog? It kept reminding me of something and then realised it was sonic and now I need to find a sega megadrive stat. Been listening to this album most of the last two day, can’t be healthy.

  45. Yes, I admit that I’m guilty of downloading the album when it leaked, but I promise to also pay for it later – and the books too finances willing. I love them and would never think of pick pocketing them. I agree almost entirely with the above review. I do tend to side with Emily, also being an unqualified Sara fan, but that’s a moot point really because it’s a lot like choosing between water and air. Sara’s songs aren’t always immediately relatable but hold up longer, I think, to repeat listening while Tegan’s songs connect right away and hit a nerve that might be painful but can’t help but be bothered with, like a loose tooth. I never skip past either of their songs, although I do tend to go back and play a few of them over.

    For example I was, at first, jarred by “Arrow” but it’s a perfect first track. I can’t imagine a better choice from this album or where else it might go, it’s like a little slap that says “hey, pay attention. I’m about to tell you something important (even if you won’t understand)” and now I tend to back it up twice before moving on. As far as the lyrical meaning I think it’s a simple reference to cupid’s arrow she’s been struck and is now trying gain the attention/affection of her new found object of desire – which I guess makes her both the target and the arrow. Alligator is probably a reference to the phrase “crocodile tears” (I don’t know the origin of that but it means to cry in vain), and so she’s basically saying “I’m over you, I’ve cried too much and put too much effort into this relationship”, which is the type of thing you say, and you wish it were true, but it isn’t. That’s why I love her songs. The meanings are always disappearing into your periphery, you can never get a good look at them. So I’d like to assure her that while she laments in BIYH that she’s no longer “…sweet and unexplainable” to those of us not fortunate enough to know her “too well”, she still is.

    “On Directing”, Love it! Always tempted to back up and hear it again until I realize that “Red Belt” is next.

    The bridge of “the Cure” is pure genuis! I think we all agree.

    Northshore! F— YES!. It’s short so hearing it 5 times in a row still doesn’t take up too much time.

    Night Watch – is a song for some reason that makes me compare the Con to OK Computer and Sainthood to Kid A, the tipping point, especially when followed by Paperback Head, arguably the weirdest song on the record but probably my eventual favorite. The lyrics and arrangements of both of these remind me of too other favorites Kristen Hersh and Neil Finn.

    And then there were 3. And they were awesome! “The Ocean”, “Sentimental Tune” and “Someday”. I don’t really have anything to add to what Crystal and Emily have already about these songs because trying to describe their beauty is a little like describing the color blue. And, BTW, Emily, “that weird synth thing” is a musical term. Musicians never talk about this stuff the way reviewers do, in fact most of it’s not even words… i.e. “ya know? that little bonk, bonk, ts-ts-ts-click thing-a-ma-bob.” Perfectly acceptable.

    • That’s interesting what you said about Sara being the arrow and the target, because I was trying to choose one or the other but the whole song seems to point to her being both.

      I always found myself using words that don’t have anything to do with music so I almost tried to avoid describing the sounds ’cause it was too hard! Next time I’ll just say I love the chk chk bonk sound ;).

  46. Okay, I could go on forever, but I won’t.

    I love this album, have been a fan for a long time and think this could easily be their best to date.

    Tegan is stepping out of her usual box just enough (“Someday”, “Don’t Rush”), but also really embracing her own sound – and not being afraid of that box (“Northshore” which is perfect little 2 minutes pop-punk track).

    And Sara just keeps getting better and better with each album. I love how she can write these weird, ethereal kind of tracks without diving head first into melancholy. “On Directing”, “Red Belt” and “Sentimental Tune” are easily my favorite songs on the album.

    All in all, so pleased with the results and cannot wait to get my itunes pre-order with bonus tracks and my ON/IN/AT package with signed ink blot.

  47. 1. “…only marginally surpassed by Dark Come Soon and maybe also that song about the wherever all the trees went.” Cute!

    2. Why is there a picture of Tegan singing passionately for the review of Sentimental Tune? Ah well.

    3. Night Watch.

    Just for some background, I too am a Sara nerd; I could continue that subject, but you hopefully know what that entails.

    I seem to be alone in this interpretation, but I think Night Watch is about Sara herself.

    I heard that she and Emy separated between The Con and now, and they had been in a Common Law Marriage (“I Was Married” was written about that experience). She’s spoken openly about how her own parent’s divorce had a big impact on her, and I imagine that getting a common law divorce herself was a profound experience for her; entering into the cycle she had watched her parents go through.

    “I’ve got grounds for divorce | It’s in my blood this divorce”. Like it’s just who she is, she can’t get away from it.

    I know it scares me when I see my father’s personality traits that caused my parent’s divorce in myself.

    Not that I know Sara or anything, just my two cents.

    Awesome review, btw. Thanks. : )

    • 2. Because we like to mix things up.
      3. That’s a really interesting interpretation, which I think holds some weight except Crystal might’ve possibly read somewhere that it’s written from their parent’s perspective. So who knows! I always hope that at some point on tour they’ll explain all their songs.
      Glad you liked the review!

      • I’ve been reading about, writing about, talking about, and listening to so much T&S stuff lately that I’ve started dreaming about them, and have also gone a little insane. So! It’s highly possible that I read this thing about their parents either in my dreams or in a hallucination.

        • No, I’ve heard that info everywhere, you are more probs correct than I. I hadn’t heard concretely, so I just was thinking.

          But new album times do become a blur of TS nerd-love, don’t they?

  48. So I guess I’m the only one who finds Sara’s songs really boring? Ah well. That’s ok. Tegan FTW for me.

    I’m excited to hear what you think of the bonus tracks, although I’m really bummed that they’re all Sara songs. Maybe I’ll like them better than the others, though, we’ll see.

  49. also, “Northshore” will be so fun to sing along to … as I expect the audience to if the play this song.

  50. I am so SO SOOOO much more excited to get the album after reading the review!

    Where am I going to be able to buy the books though?

    • You can buy the book from the online store attached to – and I read somewhere that they’ll also be available at the shows until stock runs out.

  51. i think it’s just bein over sumone . i mean she says she won’t make a scene lijke maybe shes been cheatin on and so over it…

  52. I love the fact that you can completely tell which one of them wrote which song. Every time I’ve bought an album from them…after listening to the whole thing…I go back and relisten to see if I can figure out who wrote what…and I’m right most of the time. They have two very distinctive sounds (and lyrics)…and it gives you a nice variety. I’ve always been more of a Tegan fan (probably because of the straight forward lyrics and more emotional vocals she provides). Sara’s are certainly cryptic, but her songs are always intriguing…when you feel like thinking.

    I’m so very pleased with this album. It’s all I had hoped for…and more.

  53. Emily, I believe we might be what they call kindred spirits…

    Or, we’re equally smitten with Sara.

    I, too, was immediately taken in by Alligator and Night Watch. That’s the thing about Sara, not only are her lyrics relatable but her melodies are familiar. I don’t mean to say they’re used or unoriginal. The best way I can explain: Whenever I hear a great Sara-written song for the first time, it feels almost like the song was already one of my favorites, and I’m just enjoying it for the 500th time and still loving it.

    On Night Watch, my heart breaks right about here: “I deserve this anguish on my house. [insert dizzying noise] So get away..” Lyrics expressing emotions expressed by sound!

    I wasn’t as impressed as you guys were by Sentimental Song. I kind of feel like it might be the song I’d throw away. Maybe I need to give it another listen. (Speaking of throwing away songs, I wish Light Up wasn’t just a bonus track. I could listen to it on repeat for hours.) Hell had to grow on me, so maybe this song does, too. [I heard Hell today on the radio at work, though, and it made my day.]
    When I hear The Ocean, I kind of picture someone stuck in the car with their significant other and thinking about how it’s over. I just think about the whole scenario and how it would make me feel like there was an ocean churning inside of me.

    On Directing–Uhm, Tegan’s background vocals? *swoon* Her over-lapping “hold on to me” makes me fan myself. And, yes! I love the comparison to BIYH. When I heard BIYH, I totally put that on repeat after thinking, “Oh dear Jesus, Sara Quin is following me around and writing about my awful love-life.” I didn’t have the same reaction when I heard this one, but it’s still a damn good song.

    I can say with some certainty that Alligator, The Ocean, and Night Watch are my favorites off the album, in that order…maybe….with Northshore as a close runner-up. Oh, but On Directing is almost perfect…It’s hard to choose with such a solid album!

    One thing that I found amusing, and I wonder if anyone else who’s been to their live shows had this thought while listening to the album: Doesn’t it seem odd that Tegan would write so many fast-paced, quickly sung lyrics? I mean, this is definitely within her style, but the first thing I thought after hearing Northshore and The Ocean was,”Oh, she’s totally going to forget the (order of the) lyrics to these when they play them live…”

    Now, on a totally separate but semi-related note… I say this at the risk of sounding like a huuuuuge geek, yet somehow I know someone will understand my joy. Tegan and Sara will be playing in Chicago at my favorite venue in the city (Aragon Ballroom) on Friday, March 26, which just so happens to be the day after my 21st birthday. I think I might just pretend they’re singing every song to me as a gift.

    • Kindred spirits? That sounds like fun. Always good to find those.

      Sentimental Tune is one of my favs on the album! I absolutely love the build up, plus I feel it’s an arrangement they haven’t really done often before.

      Sometimes I feel like Sara is a little teenager inside yearning for love and that’s how she captures my emotions so well, because I’m also a little teenager yearning for love.

      Since listening to the album a whole lot, I can say that my favorites are: Red Belt, Sentimental Tune, The Ocean, Alligator, Paperback Head, Someday.
      See, they’ve changed a lot since this review.

      Omg Tegan totally writes so many lyrics that are all super fast. That’s why she always messes up I Know I Know I Know.

      I think that you should yell out really loudly “It’s my birthday!” and maybe they’ll sing you a birthday song.

  54. I’ve enjoyed reading all your comments, as I am a huge T&S fan. I am a bit unique, perhaps, after reading this, because I’ve never been interested (so much) in lyrics. Maybe because I am a guitarist, it’s mostly about the music and lyrical melodies for me. Although I must admit that voices can make or break an artist for me. This is what attracted me to T&S in the first place, their unusual voices. But also, their music, more so than others, sticks in my head for days ! (lol) I love both these girls, but feel I probably relate to Tegan more so, in terms of personality and her approach to music. Then again, some of my fav songs are by Sara: Like O, Like H. Want to Bad. Walking with a Ghost.

    If I had to pick a fav album, it probably would be ‘The Con’. I thought this was a masterpiece and excellent blend of electronics and acoustics. This was my first impression about ‘Sainthood’, I miss the acoustics. Give me T&S on acoustic guitars and I am content. But after having listened to ‘Sainthood’ several times now, I realize, a change of style may not be all that bad as it brings a fresh sound into their existing mix. My fav songs on the album (so far), have been ‘Hell’, ‘The Cure’, ‘The Ocean’ , ‘On Directing’ and ‘Sentimental Tune’. I thought this album felt a bit more polished and refined (overall). But certain songs do retain that ‘quirkyness’, that I love most about T&S. In other words, that ‘style’ that best characterizes them for me. Its hard to explain, just a feeling.

    Anyway, I think T&S are musical geniuses, and this album continues their brilliance.


  55. So I want to first say this is GREAT! I’m always trying to figure out who wrote what song. The review was great, I love that you both didn’t agree on everything (makes for a better read). So Emily, may I call you Emmy? No, just kidding, you wanted ideas on Sara’s song Alligator. I’m a Sara fan all the way. It’s something about her lyrics, the way it gets you to think.
    Well, “Alligator” I think is kind of a play on wording. Have you heard of the expression crocodile tears? They’re fake, so when she says…

    Sensitive, its true
    Alligator tears cried over you

    Maybe, its a play on words, to make you think the tears are fake, when they’re actually real. Cause she used another expression, instead of the one used to describe false tears.

    Now the song Night Watch. Maybe it does have something to do with their parents divorce, and her common-law relationship.She needs to get away from everyone, cause it seems familiar. Hence the lyrics…

    I’ve got grounds for divorce
    It’s in my blood this divorce
    I separate everybody
    I need distance from your body

    And the last one Paperback Head.
    I’ve read a book once called Paper Towns,and the song has a similar meaning to it. A girl didn’t want to become part of a “paper life”
    meaning following what society wants you to be. So she separated herself from the world.
    So the line “must frame up, a material girl” is probably a common-unoriginal-follow the crowd type of girl. And they’re singing against becoming that type.
    My favorite part; who better than you? (kinda saying who are you to say what i should be or am? maybe?)

    I love to hear what you have to say back about my perspective on the songs.

    • Yeah, after we published the thing I found out that “alligator tears” is actually an expression. I thought Sara was just being really obscure, but it turns out Alligator Tears might actually be about something!

      I still think Night Watch is her perspective on her parents’ divorce but according to an article somewhere it’s not. It might also have some connection to her common law marriage thing, but who knows. She did separate amicably from Emy though.

      I think Paperback Head is about a) Madonna, or b) a celebrity who has to get her shit fixed while dealing with so much fame and paparazzi. I have no idea what the “who better than you?” part is about, particularly the “sugar and spice” line. Paperback Head remains one of the most enigmatic songs on the album for me,

      Thanks for commenting and reading!

      • Madonna? Yeah, I can see that or Britney Spears.

        Have you seen them in concert?
        I have tickets for Milwaukee, WI in March! I’m so excited its my first concert ever.
        I’m really crazy about 3 of their really old songs. I’m afraid if I yell it out everyone would turn to me and I’ll turn red in the face (I don’t think that’s possible with my skin tone) with embarrassment.
        Whoa, just thinking about it…

  56. I love Sara’s songs!
    <3 Arrow, On Directing, Red Belt, Night Watch and Sentimental tune are fantastic :)
    But I think I like Paperback Head the most (:! It's a fantastic song ;D

  57. great review!
    very personal response from the fans, i love it
    it’s important to recognize first off though, if you can’t get down with the awesome unbelievable truth of ‘back in your head’ you can’t be my friend, or – frankly – exist in my universe
    sorry, but that’s just the way that it is
    second – i’m loving the new release and esp. the track T&S worked on together – i’m so excited to see what they do next!
    great stuff guys, thanks and keep it up

  58. so this review has been up for a while but i’ve just discovered this site today. i really enjoyed reading the different song interpretations especially because t ‘n s lyrics can be so cryptic at times. the bit that i would like to offer is for on directing/sentimental tune. well first off i do agree with sentimental tune being a continuation of on directing but i don’t feel like in sentimental tune they’ve gotten to the ‘settled down’ part yet. i see it as more in on directing sara is sorta watching the girl from affar, maybe she’s approached and struck up a conversation but of course sara thinks she was “talking like a teen” and basically sounded like an idiot but then on sentimental tune is when she finally comes out with it. she tells the girl how she feels “now you know, you know it now”, she won’t “yield, throw caution into the blaze” until she’s won this girls heart. sara’s ready to “fight” to win this girls heart. she’s told her “with a little bit of friction i’ll be under your clothes, with a bit of focus i’ll be under your skin”, under the girls skin in a good way not like someone is annoying another because they are settled down and revealing their true selves. she’s saying she’s going to do what it takes to get in the girls pants!! finally on obvious reference to sex! also she’s saying the girl is nervous upon hearing such a blunt confession, nervous that sara really will win her over. now after understanding sentimental tune, i see how it ties in with arrow. sara’s taken her aim at the girl she desires! okay so that was my interpretation.

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