The Lowdown: When Tegan and Sara were doing research for their memoir, High School, the twin musicians found cassette tapes of some of their earliest songs, and because they’re Tegan and Sara, they decided to dig right into those raw, youthful recordings and turn them into something fresh and nostalgic at the same time. The outcome, Hey, I’m Just Like You, reveals not only what talented songwriters the two women were even as teenagers, but also how they’ve grown over the years into skillful arrangers and producers, capable of teasing out and showcasing bittersweet, emotional richness.
The Good: If any artists can handle vulnerable teenage writing with care and respect, it’s the Quin sisters, and with their latest album, they prove they’re still up to the task. They’ve been tackling and balancing overwhelming desire, agony, heartbreak, and confusion since they began their careers nearly two decades ago. With Hey, I’m Just Like You, the structural openness is still there; however, since it’s written by teens, it’s just a bit more concentrated and shameless.
“I’ll Be Back Someday” is a deliriously fun pop-punk throwback, and “We Don’t Have Fun When We’re Together Anymore” is a perfect capsule of emotion, revealing how much universality can be found in teenage melodrama. There’s also “Hold My Breath Until I Die”, which perfectly reminds us of juvenile uneasiness, because who among us hasn’t felt an embarrassment and vulnerability so big that we just want to hold our breath forever?
Meanwhile, the knockout “I Know I’m Not the Only One” is a catchy, upbeat synth-pop jaunt hiding stunningly wise lyrics about young lovers still having their own future after love ends. “Hello, I’m Right Here” and “Please Help Me” capture fear and confusion in a gentle and stripped-down way, as does album closer “All I Have to Give the World Is Me”, which Sara accurately describes in album notes as “brutally earnest.” It will have you in tears while remembering what it felt like to be young and brave, saying what you feel without artifice.
The Bad: Most of the production choices are lovely and well-suited to showcase core elements of the songs and somehow make the decade-old songs sound modern. However, “Don’t Believe the Things They Tell You, (They Lie)” has a darker electronic intensity that might serve well to convey a feeling but feels outdated when placed against the album at large. Nothing about Hey I’m Just Like You is objectively “bad” however, placing it in the context of all of Tegan and Sara’s work, it lands in the upper middle. It’s original in concept, smartly executed, but not earth-shattering.
The Verdict: Hey, I’m Just Like You gives Tegan and Sara, and their fans, an opportunity to look backward at a version of themselves that was looking forward. There’s nothing gimmicky here, and it could’ve been, but you can hear how charmed they are by their younger selves and the tenderness they feel towards them in every note. As an album, it’s effective and objectively good, but somewhat slight in comparison to their previous iterations. That being said, their sincere, youthful reverie combined with well-honed production and arrangement skills that could have only come with age makes for a truly sweet and satisfying addition to the Quin sisters’ catalog.
Essential Tracks: “I Know I’m Not the Only One”, “Hold My Breath Until I Die”, and “Hello, I’m Right Here”