Being one of alt-rock’s most consistent machines is sort of a double-edged sword. Canadian twins Tegan & Sara have never made a truly great album, but their best moments suggest acute focus could be just around the corner. “Call It Off,” “Speak Slow,” “Like O, Like H,” and the White Stripes-covered “Walking With a Ghost,” which has one of the bluntest riffs of the decade, are almost impossible to extract from your brain. Sainthood is more of the same. The sisters’ key subject is still ambiguous heartbreak in the I-wish-you-called mold. They’re no sadder and no saner — just generally glum and disappointed, with bummed guitar turns to match.
What distinguishes the duo’s sixth album is the production by Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla. He makes the duo sound choppier than usual. The blockier riffs, straight-ahead songs, harmonies more fluid than mere call-and-response, and booming arena drums contrast starkly with Walla’s work on Tegan & Sara’s 2007 album, The Con, which had more variety (including laptop doodlings, pizzicato strings, and one-minute interludes). Rocking out and pounding harder on “Northshore” and the surprisingly disco-influenced “Alligator” makes for a more dynamic sound, but not necessarily any tunes as memorable as previous hit “Back in Your Head.” The full, fleshed-out band sound should do wonders for their live show, though. — Dan Weiss