Tennis Yours Conditionally
Published Mar 10, 2017Fresh off a yacht trip together, the married couple of Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley emerged as Tennis around 2010 with an album of love songs inspired by '60s pop/R&B. They grew over their next two albums with the help of talented producers like Patrick Carney and Richard Swift, and on their third record, 2014's Ritual in Repeat, they tried on some new sounds, from Joni Mitchell-esque folk to Madonna-inspired '80s synth-pop, garnering mixed reviews. They've since returned to what they know best: sailing together and working on classic songwriting with a warm, analog sound.
Before their fourth album, they took a second yacht trip (yes, the privilege is real), to regroup and write. While it could sound like the premise for a dramatic mid-life crisis, the boating life clearly works for them; they've returned with a refocused sound closer to '70s singer-songwriter fare from Carole King and Fleetwood Mac, a sound that supports Moore's thoughtful lyrics.
"My Emotions Are Blinding" ironically confronts sexist stereotypes like the hyper-emotionality of women (re-appropriating the misogynist word "hysterical" in the process) and the idea that frontwomen in bands are just avatars cooing in front of the creative and technical prowess of male bandmates (in lyrics like "I'm just a vehicle for the material"). "Ladies Don't Play Guitar" charts a similar course.
"Island Music" addresses the internal isolation of touring life (like being in the eye of a storm), with everything but Moore's voice reverbed out and the clarity of treble frequencies cut to illustrate the feeling of being in her own head and the world swirling around her. It's a neat technique that makes the tropical-sounding guitar feel a bit creepier, and helps wind down an otherwise pretty upbeat and catchy record. (Mutually Detrimental)