I met my first online friends in 2006 when I was 16. I was starting to come out as some iteration of a lesbian. I didn’t know a lot of queer people or even understand the possibility of a queer community. But I knew one thing: I loved the internet, and I loved Tegan and Sara. I landed on a Tegan and Sara fan forum, where I suddenly found myself up all night talking to new friends who were mostly also coming out. We shared songs and videos, played guitar, and gushed about the exquisite pain of first Straight Girl Crushes. When I came out to someone in my family for the first time, my internet friends listened in, muted on video chat.
Two years prior to my discovery of internet friends and unbeknownst to me, Tegan and Sara released their fourth studio album, So Jealous. It was the album that launched them into the spotlight, which is often credited to two events: the White Stripes cover of “Walking With A Ghost” and the premiere of Grey’s Anatomy, the mid-aughts surprise indie tastemaker. But So Jealous is about so much more than its catchy hooks.
Their first album to experiment with different styles, the melodrama of So Jealous is hard to resist. It’s emotionally indulgent heartbreak music, whether your heart is breaking or not (the album may or may not convince you that it is). And now, it’s back.
Still Jealous is a re-imagining of its 2004 namesake, stripped down to minimal instrumentation. When making albums the sisters write and sing lead on their own songs, producing a more or less even split of songwriting on each record. But get this: on Still Jealous they switch to singing lead vox on each other’s songs! As a person of lesbian experience, this is especially exciting to me and other long-time fans who — don’t make fun of me — can identify which sister wrote which song based on lyrics, instrumentation, and timbre. It never even occurred to me that they could do that. For newer fans or those with piqued interest, now’s a great time to jump in! But don’t miss out on the original album.
Speaking of the original album, here’s a celebratory ranking of my least-to-most favorite songs on So Jealous with credit to the original songwriters. Fight me in the comments!
14. We Didn’t Do It (Sara)
Every time this song comes on, I expect it to be “Walking With a Ghost,” and I feel disappointed when it’s not. The song is fine, if not a little boring. The chord progression in the intro and verses aren’t identical to those in “Walking With a Ghost,” and both songs proceed in different ways, but it’s impossible for “We Didn’t Do It” to shine as long as it stands in the shadow of a big hit.
13. Take Me Anywhere (Tegan)
“Take Me Anywhere” has a similar vibe to “Speak Slow”: short, fun, and a little less serious than the rest of the album. The two songs have ample space between them, the former is the second track, and latter is the penultimate. It brings a necessary briskness to the album, but I’m sorry to say that it’s not very interesting.
12. Speak Slow (Tegan)
True to the form of So Jealous, the lyrics of “Speak Slow” contemplate the decline of a romantic relationship, but the song itself is so fun, if not a little bit frenzied. Tegan has a knack for short, brisk, hooky songs that are easy to sing/shout along to. It’s an incredible song to see live; there’s so much energy in the room. As fun as it may be to listen to the album version by yourself, it doesn’t have the same spark as being in a crowded, gay room shouting along.
11. I Can’t Take It (Sara)
If there’s one thing Sara’s gonna do, it’s make a quiet song about suffering, probably around the end of an album. While she vacillates between “I can’t take it” and “I can take it,” each line she sings sounds like she’s saying “I can take it.” It gives the air of quiet confidence, a strong note to go out with. When it’s time to move on, it’s time to move on.
10. You Wouldn’t Like Me (Tegan)
Do we know if Shonda Rhimes is a huge T&S fan? “You Wouldn’t Like Me” plays in the second episode of Grey’s Anatomy series while Meredith decides to live with Izzy and George, and the three of them spend several seasons of the show taking turns liking and not liking each other. It’s a fine enough song that picks up speed in the second half when the full band kicks in at the bridge, but the first half isn’t musically interesting enough to warrant barebones guitar. Extra points, however, for exposing the unfortunate tendency to say things to someone else that one might actually need to say to themselves, ex. “I wouldn’t like me if I met me” and “You wouldn’t like me if you met me.”
9. Fix You Up (Tegan)
It’s popular therapy advice to be told that you can’t fix another person. But who among us hasn’t tried anyway as the fixer or the fixed? It’s a touching song, softhearted in nature, that has questions as much as it has answers: “Well there’s not a lot for you to give/If you’re giving in/And there’s not a lot for you to feel/If you’re not feeling it.” Acceptance is often painful and scary, but ultimately there’s only so much one can give, and sometimes that means love alone isn’t enough to fix things.
8. I Won’t Be Left (Tegan)
I’ve found out personally that you cannot make someone feel nostalgic along with you, which is a bummer, but probably also healthy. In call-and-response vocals the two sing, “Would you stay/Home with me/And keep our memories warm?/Would you give/All your love/For a run at the past with me?” Exes do not like to hear these words, though admittedly, So Jealous is not about healthy relationships, which is fine! Many have been there and back again and lived to tell about it, Tegan and Sara are no exceptions.
7. Downtown (Sara)
Years ago, someone on the internet joked that “Downtown” is actually about oral sex, and unfortunately it will not leave my mind. Assuming that isn’t true, I’m gonna chalk this one up as of Sara’s classic metaphors. Is it a physical place? An emotional place? Both? Despite its popular appeal, it’s not quite as compelling as the other Sara songs on the album, where she gets to flex her creativity lyrically and musically.
6. Wake Up Exhausted (Tegan)
If someone asks if you’re alright and your immediate answer is “I can stand up straight,” you might be in a weird place in your life. And that’s where we find Tegan. Personally, I’m a sucker for nostalgia, and the space that Tegan fills simultaneously looks back on the good times of a relationship while experiencing the bad times that bring things to an end. The instrumentation is wistful and reflective – the beginning of something, but also the end.
5. I Know (Tegan)
It’s a song about pleading, begging to be reassured that something’s not falling apart when it already has. It’s when the only person who can reassure you can’t reassure you this time. When Tegan sings “I know, I know, I know,” it feels downtrodden, a reluctant acceptance after a long-worn bittersweet effort to make it work. The keyboard outro feels like lingering in the doorway before a goodbye. It’s one of the more straightforwardly viscerally evocative tracks on the album, which says a lot.
4. Bet It Stung (Sara)
“I Bet It Stung” is the closest thing Sara gets to a rock and roll track on this record, which is usually Tegan’s lane. This isn’t not just because of the “I love the rock and roll” refrain; it just fits. The lyrics are sparse but contain self-aware contradictions: “Tell me you love me like you think you want to be loved/Pull on my hand and say, please just let’s make it this way,” and a few lines later: “Go away.”
3. Where Does the Good Go? (Tegan)
I demand to know who the lesbian behind the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack is! If you’re reading this, Grey’s Anatomy music lesbian, thank you! “Where Does the Good Go?” leans into a popular theme for them: pleading for something you can’t get back. “Look me in the eye/And tell me you don’t find me attractive”. Rough! “Look me in the heart/And tell me you won’t go”. Really rough. When the good goes, it’s gone, leaving you only with questions.
2. Walking With A Ghost (Sara)
Widely considered Tegan and Sara’s first bonafide hit, the single is both eerie and upbeat. The songwriting on So Jealous, as well as in their earlier work, tends to be pretty straightforward and without much metaphor. That’s what sets “Walking With a Ghost” apart. The lyrics are simple and repetitive, which lends itself to the experience of endless rumination in the wake of lost love. “No matter which way you go/No matter which way you stay/You’re out of my mind/Out of my mind/Out of my mind/Out of my mind” are just not the words that one might say about someone who’s actually out of their mind. It’s not just a heartbreak, it’s a haunting.
1. So Jealous (Sara)
So Jealous is one of Tegan and Sara’s best songs, period. By this point in their discography, the two had a tendency towards candidness when it came to (gay) feelings: longing, desire, loneliness, thinly concealed lust, regret. And though it is a particularly gay feeling to “want the ocean right now,” jealousy is so much more complicated than that, and Sara dives into it fearlessly. It’s consuming: “I get so jealous/I can’t even work.” And it’s shameful: “There I am in the morning/I don’t like what I see.” It can’t be helped, but neither can it be solved by anything but time.