Tegan and Sara’s new album, Hey, I’m Just Like You, too often sounds like the inside of a teenager’s head, which is the point, since the album is a collection of re–recorded demos from the artists’ late teens. In an interview, Tegan said that the more she listened to the demos, the less she cringed. The final product, however, has the opposite effect on the listener: the every–teen aesthetic quickly runs dry.
Almost coincidentally, the monochrome cover accurately describes the blandness of these twelve songs, the guitars and synths (a welcome return to form for the veteran band) that run through the tracks lack the emotional, electric oomph of their last two albums in the end. Upon repeated listens, the album’s wide–eyed youth quickly becomes boring.
The album's third track, “I’ll Be Back Someday,” packs the most energy and hits all the right notes. It channels that rebellion against everything and nothing in particular that you feel as a teenager. The rest of the album aims for this feeling and, unfortunately, misses. “Hey, I’m Just Like You” sounds like Tegan and Sara embodying their teenage selves to reach out to the younger generation through half–baked metaphors and a cringe–worthy vocal unison on the lyric “me and you.”
On “Hello, I’m Right Here,” Sara sounds like a depressed teenager. As a general rule of thumb, the lyrics across Hey, I’m Just Like You are just as muddled and confused as a teenage girl’s diary: awkward, earnest, hormonal, emotional, and poignant. The epiphanies on tracks like “Hello, I’m Right Here,” and “All I Have to Give the World is Me” are lost in the torrent of hormones and emotions of teen–dom. Tegan had said in an interview that “there is something really powerful about putting a record with a straightforward message out there” in a “very complicated” time, but the only clear message of this album is a dazed adolescent confusion.
Perhaps the most poignantly confused song is “Don’t Believe The Things They Tell You (They Lie),” a passionate power–ballad that is hard to make sense of without the context in which it was written. According to Tegan and Sara, it is essentially about them lying about their sexuality and their use of LSD to their mom during high school, and Tegan’s perspective on the situation. Although none of this is readily apparent to the listener, not knowing the story behind the song doesn’t lessen its appeal or make it any less enjoyable.
Based on what Tegan and Sara have said about the development of the album, the production seems to have been almost an afterthought. They chose someone, Alex Hope, who was "best for the role [of producer]," but not with a specific sound in mind. Their last two records, Love You to Death and Heartthrob, both adrenaline rushes of sleek yet emotionally complex electro–pop, had an energy and urgency that Hey, I’m Just Like You lacks. Instead, Hey, I'm Just Like You frames that emotional complexity in the context of bland, guitar–driven alternative rock with light, tepid flourishes of synth. The general sound of the album is modern pop–rock, beholden to no more specific genre or scene. It doesn't sound exciting, but is, at best, passionate, given how personal and raw these 30–year–old songs are.
High school is a time for kids to begin figuring out who they want to be and how they want to fit in. It’s the stop–gap in between childhood and adulthood. Though this record seems to lack a central message or ultimate goal, it stands testament to the creative breath of fresh air that one gets from retrospection.