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Music & Concerts

Tegan and Sara back with tight, hook-heavy effort

New album continues pop-heavy, slick trajectory



Tegan and Sara, gay news, Washington Blade
Tegan and Sara, gay news, Washington Blade

Tegan and Sara continue upping their game on their latest project. (Photo courtesy Warner Bros.)

Acclaimed Canadian indie-pop sibling duo and LGBT activists Tegan and Sara are back with their eighth album, “Love You to Death,” and it’s another superb release by the sisters Quin.

The album is released on Neil Young’s Vapor Records label and was produced by Greg Kurstin, most recently known as the co-writer, producer and primary instrumentalist behind Adele’s chart-topping anthem “Hello.”

“Love You to Death” is a continuation of the duo’s embrace of upbeat electronic pop elements. They go for massive hooks, big synths and uber-polished production. Fortunately the 10 tracks are ear candy of the highest order and the duo quite capably pulls off a style you might expect from some hot new European import rather than the veteran indie-pop duo from Canada that was also known for guitar-based work.

Tegan and Sara’s version of commercial pop is smart and immediately engaging. Opening track “That Girl,” with its anthemic hook and ultra-modern vibe, sounds like something that may have been considered for a Kelly Clarkson project. “Faint of Heart” is an even more commercial track with a chorus perfectly designed for heavy summertime radio play. Its upbeat, singalong nature practically begs for a bevy of remixes for dance-floor consumption.

It’s difficult to believe that the gleaming commercial gem “Boyfriend” isn’t Meghan Trainor or Carly Rae Jepsen. Give it to Tegan and Sara for being willing to go on a limb and try something different — in this case it can only be described as Top 40 pop that might be aimed at your average 13 year old. It’s strange to hear the duo in this context, but it’s so catchy and well executed that it just works. It’s fun, peppy and irresistibly catchy.

The big electro-beats, processed vocals and giant melodic hooks continue on “Dying to Know,” a heavily rhythmic track that again practically demands radio play. There isn’t a song on this collection that wouldn’t sound great on the FM dial blasted on a road trip with the sunroof open and the beach on the horizon. “Stop Desire” is pure Euro-pop, right out of Kylie, Robyn or Goldfrapp’s arsenal of tricks. It’s another dancefloor raver that’s going to sound great on club speakers.

“White Knuckles” is a more mid-tempo jam with lots of vocal effects and treated piano over a heavy backbeat. Like all the songs on “Love You To Death,” the vocals are heavily layered and everything is completely digital, pro-tooled and auto-tuned. So while it does have that artificial modern pop sound, what makes it work is the strength of the songwriting and the charm of the ladies’ vocal performances.

Other standouts include glossy power ballad “100x,” the Pet Shop Boys-esque “BWU” and album closer “Hang On to the Night,” which begins with an orchestral flourish that gives way to a big retro-synth riff and an atmospheric vibe that owes more to bands like O.M.D. and New Order than modern pop.

“Love You to Death” is electronic pop that’s smart, catchy and compact. At only 31 minutes, the album is a quick listen, but it doesn’t feel like we’re shortchanged. Each of the self-penned song is a potential single.  Some artists have tried to make the leap from more alternative-edged indie-pop to mainstream pop with decidedly mixed results (Liz Phair comes to mind), but Tegan and Sara makes it work.


Music & Concerts

Bruce & Janet & John Legend, oh my!

Slew of iconic acts hitting the road after pandemic cancellations



Janet Jackson is among the iconic acts touring this spring.

Pop and rock icons are releasing their pent-up pandemic frustrations by mounting huge tours this spring and summer. After three years of canceled and postponed shows, everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Janet Jackson is hitting the road at long last. But save your coins because the TicketMaster algorithms are driving ticket prices to astronomical highs. Here are a few highlights from D.C.-area venues this spring. Although some of the iconic acts aren’t coming until summer — Beyonce, Madonna, Pink — several others are hitting the road this spring.

Betty Who plays March 10; Keyshia Cole headlines the All Black Extravaganza 20 Year Anniversary tour on March 18; the Yeah Yeah Yeahs come to town on May 3; Seal brings his world tour to town on May 10; and the beloved Pixies are back on the road with a new North American tour stopping here on June 10.

9:30 CLUB
Don’t miss Gimme Gimme Disco, an Abba dance party on March 18; Inzo arrives on March 31, followed by Bent on April 1; Ruston Kelly brings his The Weakness tour on April 17 along with Purr; The New Pornographers show on May 19 is sold out but there are tickets available for the May 20 show; The Walkmen have added a fourth show on May 23 because the other three shows are sold our;

Living legend Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are back with a vengeance, playing one of four area shows on March 27. (They’re in Baltimore the night before.) If you missed out this time, don’t worry, Bruce is playing Nats Park in September as well as at Baltimore’s Camden Yards. April 1 brings the R&B Music Experience, including Xscape, Monica, Tamar Braxton, and 112. Blink-182 comes to town on May 23. And this summer watch for Sam Smith to continue his hot streak, bringing his “Gloria” tour to town on Aug.4.

Janet Jackson makes her highly anticipated return to the stage this spring, arriving in our area on May 6 along with guest Ludacris. The LGBTQ ally and icon has promised new music on her upcoming “Together Again Tour,” which follows the pandemic-related cancellation of her “Black Diamond Tour.” Jackson also plays Baltimore’s newly renovated CFG Bank Arena on May 13.

John Legend plays two nights at Wolf Trap on June 2 and 3; Charlie Puth follows on June 4. Wolf Trap also hosts the Indigo Girls on June 7 just in time for Pride month. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with the Smithereens at the Birchmere on March 17. Fans of ‘80s alternative will be lined up for the Church also at the Birchmere at April 4, followed by Suzanne Vega on April 26. Amy Grant returns to the stage this spring and plays the Birchmere on May 2. Echostage plays host to a slew of buzz worthy shows this spring, including Ella Mai on April 8 and Fisher on May 12.

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Music & Concerts

Internationally acclaimed pianist to play at Strathmore

Brian Ganz to celebrate 12th annual concert



(Photo by Vitalii Petrushenko/Bigstock)

“An Evening of Chopin’s Chamber Music with Brian Ganz and Friends” will be on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore.

Pianist Brian Ganz will celebrate his 12th annual concert in his quest to perform the complete works of Frédéric Chopin. He will be joined by Carter Brey, principal cellist for the New York Philharmonic, and Laura Colgate, concertmaster for the National Philharmonic. The artists will perform all the major chamber music works written by Chopin, including the rarely heard Trio in G minor for piano, violin and cello, Op. 8, as well as the famed Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor.

Ticket prices start at $29 and free for young people 7–17.  For more details, visit

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Music & Concerts

Boston Gay Men’s Chorus builds bridges in new documentary

‘Music Triumphs Homophobia’ chronicles group’s travels around the world



Boston Gay Men’s Chorus (Photo by A Priori Photography)

Poland, Turkey, and South Africa are among the places the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus has traveled, facing discrimination, but also finding acceptance and camaraderie on the road. 

“Music Triumphs Homophobia,” a new documentary available on Amazon Prime Video written and directed by filmmakers Craig Coogan and Michael Willer, follows the Chorus’s tours around the world and grapples with how spiritual LGBTQ people contend with the homophobic mistranslations of religious texts. It also explores the power of music. 

“Our goal is to share … the joy and inspiration that music can have in overcoming prejudice,” Coogan, the former executive director of the chorus, said in an interview. “What BGMC has done for 40 years, and other choruses have done as well, is infusing the world with joy, inspiration, and hope.”

And it’s not just Christianity that misinterprets religious doctrines, Coogan said. 

“It wasn’t just Christian, and it wasn’t Muslim. It wasn’t Jewish. It wasn’t one particular denomination. It actually was overall,” Coogan said. 

The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus was founded in 1982 and is comprised of more than 200 performers, from all different backgrounds. This diversity of perspective is what drives the mission of the chorus and the documentary, Coogan said.  

“The universality of coming together as one voice, to tell one story, is incredibly powerful. And I think that’s what audiences identify with,” Coogan said.  

Because the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus had to go on hiatus from performing at the onset and height of the pandemic, Coogan and Willer sought out a solution — to put together a documentary chronicling the history and work of the group.  

The pair already had most of the footage before putting together a full, nearly two-hour documentary was a reality for them. For years, people at the chorus, including Coogan and Willer, had captured the various trips for the archives. 

“This actually afforded us a unique opportunity to immerse ourselves in 30 terabytes of footage,” Willer said. 

Michael Willer is one of two filmmakers behind the new documentary. (Photo courtesy BGMC)

Coogan and Willer put together the footage and filled gaps with additional interviews, which they filmed in a studio at the height of the shutdown while following health and safety protocols. 

The entirety of the music paired with the documentary is also produced by the chorus. 

Coogan and Willer hope LGBTQ people and non-LGBTQ people alike watch the film and that they experience a “shifting perception.” 

“We tried to cover as many different perspectives as we had access to that had stories to share,” Willer said. “And to give a sense of relatability and humanity to people that are human, and deserve to have their voices heard, and hopefully in a way that is affecting, and that lasts for whoever might watch it.”

“It’s not about one person, but all these different perspectives,” Coogan added. 

The title of the documentary is a spin on a translated news headline in Poland when the chorus went there in 2005 — “Music Triumphs Intolerance.” It also communicates the mission of the group in a clear, concise way, Coogan said. 

“When it really comes down to it, music does triumph over homophobia,” he said. 

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