The third studio album from the eternally charming indie-pop duo Tennis is just a teeny bit deceptive; as buoyant and carefree as the music seems, it was born from a rigorous writing and practicing schedule, adopted by the Denver-based band in response to a brutal case of writer's block. With this in mind, the record's title is perfectly in line with its final product: Ritual in Repeat is an elegantly constructed and crafted piece of pop music art borne from rigorous, exacting songwriting.
Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley (who are also a married couple) have once again taken a close look at matters of the heart in breezy bouncers like "Never Work for Free." This tune, along with a few others on the record, is cut n' paste Tennis — sweet, energetic, hooky as hell — and will delight old-school fans who still have the band's 2010 hit "Marathon" on their playlist rotation. The band also make some forays into quieter territory, and it's here that one of their greatest hidden gifts, their lyricism, takes centre stage. The dreamy, '50s-inspired tune "Bad Girls" is a true standout, flipping our notions of the titular trope out the window: "If it were physical it would show/ If it were spiritual I would know," Moore croons, her voice a perfect starlit tremolo, bemoaning the divided state of female freedom vs. expectation. It's an unexpectedly intimate moment in this little doo-wop chestnut. Songs like this are where the band's hard work pays off. Underneath the glossy surface, they cleverly subvert our pop expectations. (Communion)