Tegan and Sara
The Con X: Covers
10th Anniversary edition
Review by Jason Leigh
The Con X: Covers is not exactly the 10th anniversary edition but is stated as being a tribute to that album. Although still credited as such, this is not a Tegan and Sara album. Their essence is present in the writing and choice of the artists but these songs differ in a variety ways from the originals and the trademark abrasive quality, almost lo fi aesthetic and twinned vocals are not to be found here. Apart from the songs, The Con X shares a diversity of style and approach that was carried by the original album. Tegan and Sara have described the creation of The Con as an experience of “pain” and “loss” amidst relationship issues and following the death of their close grandmother with subsequent live performances transforming the songs into something more healing and positive. This cover version of the album has apparently allowed them to reflect and for that catharsis to continue.
If you know the parent album, the familiarity shines through such that at times it does seem like Tegan and Sara themselves are singing and these covers become virtual remixes by default notably Muna’s “Relief Next To Me”, Pvris’ “Are You Ten Years Ago” and Kelly Lee Owens’ “Soil, Soil”, the last of which is simply an interlude that strips the original’s lyrics to retain only the chorus and refrain of “All you need to save me / All you need to say to me”. Incidentally, among bonus tracks not included but released digitally, Tegan and Sara do appear on a demo of unreleased song “Miami Still”.
Ruth B.’s version of “I Was Married” opens the album, channeling Regina Spektor while Sara Bareilles’ later piano-led “Floorplan” is a contrast to the coarse edged, nerve-exposed sound of some of the originals making it feel more reflective and contemplative. Shura’s “The Con” takes on an anthemic quality and seems almost positive in the light of the doubtful lyrics. Ryan Adams, being no stranger to cover versions, delivers a version of “Back in Your Head” not too dissimilar from the original, exchanging the pop piano refrain with rock guitar, while City and Colour’s “Hop a Plane” has a laidback acoustic approach in opposition to the original’s punchy guitar assertiveness. Bleachers’ “Burn Your Life Down” sounds like Bon Iver before he became tainted by Kanye West et al. Paramore’s Hayley Williams’ “Nineteen” is done in a style somewhere between minimalism of some songs and the programmed songs that sounded like remixes. The most interesting takes are Mykki Blanco’s slowed down almost dub “Knife Going In” and Shamir’s performance of “Like O, Like H” has a minimal, raw quality, not too distant from a demo. “Dark Come Soon” by Trashique (Grimes X Hana) contains a more laidback Grimes performance and is a return to the programmed tracks that were predominant earlier. The album closes with Chvrches covering “Call it Off” sounding much as you would expect.
This release would usually be the bonus disc packaged with the original album. Perhaps a reissue with this, the bonus making of DVD that came with early copies and the four bonus tracks that were limited to digital format including Cyndi Lauper’s “Back in Your Head” and the aforementioned “Miami Still” by Tegan and Sara themselves would have been a better way to commemorate the tenth anniversary of their fifth album.