Review: Tegan and Sara: Modern Heartthrobs

Tegan and Sara: Modern Heartthrobs
Melody Lau, 160 pgs, Invisible Publishing,, $17.95

Lately there’s been an interest in our nation’s not-too-distant cultural history, especially the music acts of the aughts and teens that somehow managed to escape the borders of this afterthought nation to become global megastars. This phenomenon was partly chronicled by Michael Barclay in his 2022 book Hearts on Fire, which served as a gloss on many acts spread across several genres.

Melody Lau’s contribution to the archive of Canadian music history, Modern Heartthrobs, zooms in on just one act. Choosing Tegan and Sara (formerly Sara and Tegan) as her subject, Lau takes the reader from their early days all the way to the book’s date of publication. In many ways, their story is as compelling as the other major acts of the period. After all, it wasn’t an easy road for the twins from Calgary, who after coming out publicly early in their careers had to deal with a hostile press who proved to be more interested in speculating on whether them being lesbians meant they had experimented with one another than providing a sincere critique of their art.

Unlike many other acts who saw the quality of their music degenerate in inverse proportion to their pocketbooks, Tegan and Sara’s art has only increased in its popularity and reach. Their victory is hard-won through their willingness to adapt and evolve and their refusal to succumb to the fear of deviating from others’ expectations. Lau does an excellent job of highlighting these tensions through her interviews with Tegan and Sara and her use of journalism from the time to narrate this artistic expansion. She provides us with valuable insight into one of Canada’s most unique acts.