Heartthrob, the new album by Tegan and Sara, has caused a measure of controversy between my friend Jason and me. My position is that Heartthrob's '80s-style synth pop comprises the same kind of songs T&S used to play on acoustic guitars, only now we are hearing the instruments they hear in their heads. The essential elements—hooky choruses, modal melodies and lyrics that reassure lesbians can be as psychologically unhealthy about relationships as Morrissey—are otherwise still in place.
Jason's position is, in paraphrase, "Yeah, but synth pop sucks." Here we founder on the shoals of personal taste. If you secretly like Roxette, Heartthrob is a weird and thrilling culmination of the songwriting aesthetic Tegan and Sara have been building for the last decade. They took a generic left turn, but so did Bowie. Then again, so did Liz Phair. For me, Heartthrob is not the end of old, good Tegan and Sara, because I like icy pop character sketches like "I Was a Fool." If you prefer icy folk character sketches, I am sorry to report the passing of an era.