Though twins Tegan and Sara Quinn grew up on punk, they've demonstrably honed their pop instincts and graduated from folk-tinged New Wave/pop-punk to something more sophisticated over the course of their four albums. Last year's The Con consolidates the gains made on 2004's critical breakthrough, So Jealous, with crafted, well-polished tracks. Produced by Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla with instrumental help from Matt Sharp (Weezer/The Rentals) and guitarist Kaki King among others, The Con is a dynamic album that, while hardly lush, boasts enveloping, idiosyncratic atmospheres. It addresses Tegan and Sara's greatest weakness to date — indistinctive arrangements. They're not Fiona Apple yet, but the greater complexity improves the flow of the album, which actually gathers steam over its 14 tracks. Overall, The Con possesses a dark beauty, from the pulsing, anxious "Relief New to Me" to the haunted feel of "Are You Ten Years Ago" to the jangly, burbling "Burn Your Life Down," which suggests the pop swoon of early Juliana Hatfield. While the emotional tenor can be overwrought, it complements the music's shadowy, repressed tension.
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