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Six months before Tegan and Sara Quin played two sold-out shows at Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club, we booked their Tiny Desk appearance. Their mini-set would take place on Nov. 7, 2016 — the eve of one of the most contentious presidential elections in U.S. history. However fortuitous the timing, it felt cathartic to hear two politically active Canadian twins serenade us before we embarked on our own election.
It's hard to believe Tegan and Sara have been making music for 17 years. They still look a lot like they did when they made their first record, 1999's Under Feet Like Ours. It took eight years for many fans to become hooked, but with the release of The Con, Tegan and Sara began to develop a fiercely loyal fan base. Songs like "Call It Off," "Back In Your Head" and "Nineteen" became heartbreak anthems for a worldwide audience.
Contrary to the poppy sound of 2016's Love You To Death, the two insisted on performing their Tiny Desk concert acoustically — stripping down highly produced songs while hearkening back to their early recordings. Without the distraction of production, we're left with the gorgeous sound of roughly identical voices blending. Plus, their endearing banter and jovial sibling rivalry left us defenseless against their charm.
Above all, what sets Tegan and Sara apart is how their vocals intertwine. The finest example in this four-song set comes in their hit "Closer" (from 2013's Heartthrob). Their voices, whether sung solo, in unison or in harmony, sound spontaneous, calculated and emotionally honest at the same time. It's no wonder they've stood the test of time while continuing to craft anthems of joy, sorrow and longing for new fans and lifers alike.
Tegan Quin (Vocals); Sara Quin (Vocals); Gabrial McNair (Piano); Brendan Buckley (Drums); Eva Gardner (Bass)
Producers: Bob Boilen, Josh Rogosin, Niki Walker; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Niki Walker, Colin Marshall, Nicole Boliaux; Production Assistant: Anna Marketti; Photo: Raquel Zaldivar/NPR.
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