Tegan and Sara Quin were once the darlings of the indie-rock set, charming Canadian twins known for their raw, guitar-driven confessionals packed with emotion.
On "Heartthrob" (Vapor/Warner Bros.), the Quins' seventh album, they let their inner dance-pop divas loose. Instead of Cat Power teamed with Ani DiFranco, they now sound like Kelly Clarkson paired with Gwen Stefani. And, in a bigger surprise, they sound pretty great doing it.
Tegan and Sara teamed with producer Greg Kurstin, best known for his work with Clarkson and Ke$ha, to build a shiny dance pop album that still includes their personal lyrics and memorable melodies.
The single "Closer" announces the change of direction and their broader commercial ambitions -- a catchy, stomping dance number that would be at home on a Katy Perry album and, more important, at the top of the pop charts. The synthy "Drove Me Wild" has slightly more of an edge, moving into Ellie Goulding territory.
Where Tegan and Sara really shine on "Heartthrob," though, is when they reimagine songs that would previously have worked on their own albums and add some pop gloss. "I'm Not Your Hero" could have been on "The Con," but it has received a Clarkson-esque makeover with "Since U Been Gone"-ish guitar and the synth-pop swoosh of "Stronger."
"How Come You Don't Want Me," which they wrote with longtime friend Jack Antonoff of fun., shows how Tegan and Sara can keep their history of deep feelings and weave it into their bright, poppier future.
Tegan and Sara play the Beacon Theatre tonight. Tickets are $39.50-$75 through Ticketmaster.
BOTTOM LINE Surprise! They're dance-pop divas now!