When Tegan and Sara released their album The Con in 2007, it confused and confounded critics, but not because of its music. The twins’ image was distorted by a rock media that was behind the times. Rolling Stone’s Robert Christagau slammed the duo for not writing more about their queerness. “As lesbians who never reference their oppression or even their sexuality,” he wrote, “Tegan and Sara don’t have men to lash out at, put up with or gripe about.” In Christagau’s world, the only valid thing they could have written about was men. Meanwhile, NME labeled the twins as “twin airbags.”
How wrong they all were. Ten years down the road, we can easily recognize how misogynistic and weird it is to slam artists for not exploiting their perceived pain for the pleasure of male rock critics. The album’s vulnerability won them legions of young fans, and now Tegan and Sara have decided to revisit The Con by turning the material over to other musicians for a cover album.
Judging by the results, Tegan and Sara took a big risk with The Con X, and the performances prove their unique concept: that two girls could make uniquely specific rock that somehow touches many different kinds of musicians. Shamir is exactly the kind of musician who was raised on Tegan and Sara. The non-binary singer has “Like O, Like H” tattooed on an arm. Shamir covers the song as they experienced it back then, stripped down and unadorned. It sounds exactly like a cover that a musician would have played in their college dorm or alone in their bedroom, proving that Tegan and Sara’s radical experiment was a success.
Tegan and Sara are honored by Cyndi Lauper and Ryan Adams, who both featured the duo as an opening act more than a decade ago. Their dueling takes on “Back in Your Head” are the most attention-grabbing songs on the album. Ryan Adams hews closest to the original material by melding the chanting sounds with his typical rasping interpretation of music. Lauper’s track is a bonus one, and it happens to be the best one on the record, giving the song a manic and punk energy.
Shura has an intriguing interpretation of “The Con,” dialing back the urgency and giving the song a haunting, remote sense of longing. PVRIS sings “Are You Ten Years Ago” with beautiful vocals and acoustic guitar. Jack Antonoff and Bleachers makes for an intimate version of “Burn Your Life Down.”
Paramore’s Hayley Williams, an early advocate of Tegan and Sara, does a great cover on “Nineteen,” giving it a typically-Paramore spin. Other featured artists include Mykki Blanco (“Knife Going In”) and Grimes and HANA (“Dark Come Soon”).
The album’s profits will go to the Quins’ LGBTQIA foundation.
- Ruth B. – I Was Married
- MUNA – Relief Next to Me
- Shura – The Con
- Mykki Blanco – Knife Going In
- PVRIS – Are You Ten Years Ago
- Ryan Adams – Back in Your Head
- City and Colour – Hop a Plane
- Kelly Lee Owens – Soil, Soil
- Bleachers – Burn Your Life Down
- Hayley Williams of Paramore – Nineteen
- Sara Bareilles – Floorplan
- Shamir – Like O, Like H
- Trashique (GRIMES X HANA) – Dark Come Soon
- CHVRCHES – Call it Off
Digital Bonus Tracks:
- Cyndi Lauper – Back in Your Head (Bonus Track)
- Bleached – One Second (Bonus Track)
- Vivek Shraya – I Take All the Blame (Bonus Track)
- Tegan and Sara – Miami Still (Bonus Track Demo)