You could say that Canadian indie-pop duo Tegan and Sara have gone back to their roots for their latest studio album. While going through things while working on their dual memoir High School, the twins found cassette tapes full of their earliest work, gave them a listen, and found the basis for their next album. Hey I’m Just Like You is a collection of these demo songs, embellished and re-recorded for the purposes of this ninth album. The album, produced by songwriter Alex Hope, is their first album entirely created by women–performed, mixed, and mastered. “This is the record we never could have made as teenagers, full of songs we never could have written as adults,” the duo told Billboard, providing a perfect description for the project.
The album opens on the appropriately dramatic “Hold My Breath Until I Die,” with minor chords and defiance reverberating throughout. Right away there’s a vulnerability to the lyrics, with words like “Late at night, when your words are eating me alive/Does it make you sad to leave me here like that?” as an introduction. This honesty carries throughout the album, radiating through songs like second single “Hey I’m Just like You,” a love song to friendship and one of the album’s standout tracks. “Hey I’m just like you/A little messed up and blue/Hey I’m just like you/Not sure what the fuck I’m to do/We’re headstrong tonight (tonight, tonight)/Racing through the streets til we fly” the duo sings, boldness and invincibility shining through despite some of the sadness within. “Hey I’m Just Like You” also earned the duo their first parental advisory in over twenty years of releasing music.
Hey I’m Just Like You was greatly influenced by Tegan and Sara’s love of punk music, a fact that can be heard within first single “I’ll Be Back Someday,” a guitar-driven, higher tempo track. The song is about wanting to escape your current circumstances, even if you know you’ll one day return. On the opposite end, there are songs like the danceable “We Don’t Have Fun When We’re Together Anymore,” which leans heavily on the synth-pop sound to describe how their high school friends grew apart during their senior year.
Unsurprisingly, some of the songs on Hey I’m Just Like You deal with Tegan and Sara’s respective teenage love lives and sexuality. Inspired by their keeping secrets and hiding who they were, “Don’t Believe the Things They Tell You (They Lie)” takes a sadder look at love and having “normal” future choices forced upon you. The repetitive, autotune-tinged “Hello I’m Right Here” examines how several failed relationship made them face some truths about who they were, with a sound that almost feels like it’s moving through water. The synth-ridden “I Don’t Owe You Anything” brings their love lives full circle with the realization that you don’t owe anything to someone just because you have a shared past.
In addition to the more recent signature Tegan and Sara synth-pop sound, Hey I’m Just Like You throws back to some of their earlier albums with heavier guitar, connecting to their punk roots. While the vocals are still very obviously Tegan and Sara, there’s a smoother quality to them that works very well with the project, marrying the lyrics to the sound perfectly. Songs like the acoustic “Please Help Me” and the unexpectedly quiet dreaminess of “Keep Them Close ‘Cause They Will Fuck You Too” exhibits their harmonies beautifully.
When they originally announced Hey I’m Just Like You, Tegan and Sara posted the following on Instagram:
“Defiant and melodramatic, the songs captured the exultation and grief of first loves, first losses, ecstatic kiss-offs, and psychedelic tributes to the friendships we had as teenagers. It had been over twenty years since we had heard the songs and quite honestly, we both expected to listen once, cringe, and bury them for another couple decades. But they were good. Like, really good. They were raw, and in some cases the lyrics were hard to decipher. But the melodies, the honesty in the words, and the joy listening to them after all these years was undeniable.”
Their assessment of their earliest work was correct; in its final form, Hey I’m Just Like You perfectly captures teen angst in an honest, genuine way. While the sound is smooth and very clearly the work of veteran artists, there’s a rawness and a refreshing honesty to the feelings explored–the loneliness, the young love, and the feeling of being lost. The songs are undeniably catchy and emotional, providing for a full teenage time capsule within its forty minute runtime, one that will transport you firmly to your own teenage years no matter how old you are.