In case you couldn't tell from the packaging - a charred letterpressed novel - The Con is sister act Tegan and Sara's "artsy" album. It's not that they've totally abandoned the retrofitted power pop of their last two discs. The twins' fifth full-length release still betrays their love affair with vintage Farfisas and Korgs; both halves still write urgent hook-based songs about love, anxiety and the mean reds that clock in at three minutes max.
But their choice to work with Death Cab's Chris Walla instead of regular producers John Collins and Dave Carswell is the smartest move Tegan and Sara have made in years.
Walla coaxes a new level of vocal prowess from both sisters, using the contrasting qualities of their voices to complement each other (note how Tegan's ghostly backups overlap Sara's rough lead on Relief Next To Me). And his affinity for experimenting with textures pushes the pair into new territory - the glitchy, percussive Are You Ten Years Ago, with its breathless narrative, recalls Elastica circa The Menace, while the mournful Knife Going In could be an epilogue to Mirah's 100 Knives, and Back In Your Head is intelligent bubble gum à la Cyndi Lauper. Better than anything they've done to date.
Tegan and Sara rock the Picnic at Fort York Sunday (July 29).