By Justin Lyons
Tennis’ initial record Cape Dory immediately charmed with its indie kid storybook romance: boy meets girl, boy and girl sail across the world, boy and girl make beautiful music together. A solid concept based on the love story of Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore.The album shined with surf pop keys, saccharine hooks and melodic guitar, but much of the debut breezed by without much discerning between tracks.
Enter the Black Keys’ drummer Pat Carney. Carney, who already had success in crafting hits with a touch of old school blues pop nostalgia, produced the act’s sophomore effort. Carney’s blues inspiration may seem like the opposite of Tennis’ sunny debut, but its what shines on Young and Old’s best tracks. The up tempo track “Petition” blisters with booming drum, pulsing keys as Moore belts and profiles a man who isn’t who he seems to be. “Origins” also employs staccato keys, but plays up bassy reverb in questioning a stubborn relationship. It is evident Moore’s previous pixie-like vocals have grown with soul, particularly on the illusory charms of “My Better Self.”
Tennis’ second album still has cuts that favor surf guitar and humming electric organ, but shows maturation and substance along the way. Album opener “It All Feels The Same” almost sounds like a sequel to “South Carolina,” but allows the instrumentation to build before Moore explodes with the hook, “when I say your name I look for a change/but everywhere I go it all feels the same.” The subject matter almost takes a blues stance in questioning a higher being. “High Road” initially acts like another beach ready anthem with driving guitar and pulsating percussion, but instead of sun and relaxation, Moore muses on how “paradise is all round, but happiness is never found.” Even “Never To Part” masks its phonic intentions and turns out to be about the anticipation and anxiety of soon to be parents.
Young and Old is a more realized collection of the nostalgia filled pop Tennis previously chartered with a touch of blues. Much of the transformation was already present by the time Riley and Moore hit the EARL last year with drummer James Barone in tow. It is refreshing to see that energy carry over to a concise studio effort.
Tennis plays Black Cat on March 7…
…and The EARL on March 10.