There's no through-line to the way Tegan and Sara think about romance on their seventh studio album.
Sometimes love heals all wounds; other times it's the wound itself. And occasionally it serves as a mere accessory to more pressing matters, as in the disc's lead single, Closer. "All I dream of lately," they sing over a throbbing disco-rock groove, "is how to get you underneath me."
Yet if Heartthrob presents a believably irregular vision of how love happens, the album does it with an immediacy and a directness that feels new for these Canadian twin sisters, who have built a devoted following of indie-minded fans.
In Goodbye, Goodbye and Drove Me Wild they trade homey folk-pop guitars for sparkling new-wave synths, while How Come You Don't Want Me rides an '80s-style drum-machine beat reminiscent of the Human League hit that almost shares its title.
You can attribute that sonic shift in part to producer Greg Kurstin, who gives Heartthrob some of the mega-pop gloss that he's given recent hits by Pink and Kelly Clarkson. ( I Couldn't Be Your Friend has a keyboard sound seemingly repurposed from Kurstin's work with Lily Allen.) But in urgent, deeply felt tunes such as Closer and I'm Not Your Hero, Tegan and Sara appear determined to be understood -- inconsistencies, contradictions and all.
Juicy, radio-bait choruses may just be a means to an end.