The first track on the album, “Closer,” sounds something like an amalgamation of Alphaville, Passion Pit, and the Ting Tings. The trendy pop instrumentation adds energy—it’s catchy. But by the album’s fourth track, the electronica still hasn’t stopped, and listening to Heartthrob starts to feel like being in a hipster Parisian discothèque. Moodier tracks like “Now I’m All Messed Up” offer lyrics and offbeat rhythms reminiscent of the band’s earlier material, but when laid over disco beats, they start sounding like the slow songs at an ‘80s-themed high school dance.
Tegan and Sara partially redeem this syrupy turn with evocative melodies like those in “Drove Me Wild” and especially “I Was a Fool,” whose harmonization is atypical of current pop. But the lack of real variation and lyricism throughout renders Heartthrob anything but subtle—and with an 18-year career built on an intimate, indie sound, Tegan and Sara are risking being branded as sellouts.