Being one of alt-rock's most consistent machines is sort of a double-edged sword. Canadian twins Tegan and 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 are in stark contrast from Walla's work on Tegan and Sara's 2007 album The Con, which had more variety (including laptop doodlings, pizzicato strings, one-minute interludes). Rocking and pounding out harder here on "Northshore" and the surprisingly disco-influenced "Alligator" makes for more dynamic sonics, but not necessarily any tunes as memorable as previous hit "Back in Your Head." Sounding like a full, fleshed-out band should do wonders for the live show, though. — Dan Weiss