Tegan and Sara — “Back in Your Head”

Released: 7.24.07

Peak: Did not chart


Pop songs feed upon relationships in crisis. Conflicts entertain, after all, and extreme emotions snugly fit into the catchiest tunes. But everyday life with another person has subtler difficulties than many songwriters acknowledge–I mean, if your world is all fucking around or throwing furniture or neighbors’ brooms banging from downstairs, maybe you should reconsider your options. But Tegan and Sara Quin share such a preternatural ability to obsess over romantic anxieties without blowing them up into easy melodrama that Robert Christgau advanced the silly notion in Rolling Stone that lesbians must lead tranquil lives because they “don’t have men to lash out at, put up with or gripe about.”

Obviously, someone oughta sign the Dean up for Showtime. But the steady hands with which the twins recalibrate their love affairs is noteworthy. “Back in Your Head” isn’t the first song to chart that Sargasso Sea into which couples drift when the tidal pull of passion fails them and the lukewarmth of shared existence entangles them. But what sets it apart is that the lyrics both avoid the pop instinct to lash out in response and also the common impulse to settle for complacent comfort. The “wall of books/ Between us in our bed” that Sara (right?) sings about isn’t a tragedy, and “I’m not unfaithful but I’ll stray” isn’t the end of the world. But both observations scare her.

And after escaping a period of dreadful, earnest teen folk, the duo honed a musical aesthetic that suits their cool temperaments as well. Here it’s fine-tuned by bandmate Chris Walla (also of Death Cab): a deliberate single note doo-doo doo-doo doo-doo piano plinking along with a rhythm that’s insistent but not overheated sums up the Quins’ mood exactly. They’re serious, but not desperate.

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  • Craig Bickle  On January 19, 2011 at 6:32 am

    This record is okay, imo, but a bit of a disappointment after “So Jealous”, which may be my favorite album of the last decade. Definitely top 5.

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