Release Date: Nov 25, 2013
Record label: Communion Records
From the sound of this stopgap EP from Denver husband-and-wife duo Tennis, Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley live in a house awash with Ikea, feed exclusively on macrobiotic cucumber smoothies and enjoy dinner parties with Summer Camp, Anna Calvi and Alex Winston to the soundtrack of The Cardigans. Marvellous alt. pop snuggliness all round, in other words, as lead track ‘Mean Streets’ – a treatise on rags-to-riches pop stardom – slopes by with a cosy, jazzy Scandi-pop sway.
Tennis' Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley are a Pinterest-ready married couple. Perfect prep narrative (I mean, c’mon, even Vampire Weekend don’t sail), pretty pop songs, that sort of thing. But perfect and pretty get boring after a minute, and the two have come to realize that. With their third release, the five-song Small Sound EP, Tennis complicate the easy breezy beautiful schtick with some positive results.
They haven’t totally lost their 1950’s pop-rock gleam, but on Small Sound — an EP between 2012’s critically renowned Young & Old and their anticipated spring full-length — Tennis bulks up their sound, adding muscular riffs to a few of the grittier cuts (“Mean Streets”, “Cured of Youth”) and some seriously polished hooks to a pair of wildly catchy ones (“Dimming Light, “100 Lovers”). Aliana Moore’s voice shines: there’s sweetness, toughness, spite. Slightly more crafted, with less of the lo-fi dreaminess than the previous two records, Small Sound’s has bite: sometimes it drops into bigger choruses, at others it breaks into a wave distorted fuzz.
As cheerful and charming as Tennis's debut album was, it was hard to imagine the duo having much longevity. At heart, it was a vanity project: husband and wife Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley lovingly leafing through the memories of a seven month sailing trip they took together. Thankfully, the breezy, infectious appeal of the actual songs rescued debut album Cape Dory from being overshadowed by its narrative.
Small Sounds serves as a precursor to the third full-length from husband and wife pair Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, also known as Tennis, set to come out next spring. In the EP’s accompanying press release, Riley predicts that the LP will be “a bit darker overall, maybe a little weird. ” Dark and weird don’t make the list of adjectives commonly used to describe this Denver-based duo, who quite frequently find themselves labeled as “cute,” “twee,” and even “adorable” thanks to their breezy blend of pop and the fact that they’re a married couple who started making music as a result of a seven-month sailing trip.
Escape is a valuable commodity. And Tennis regularly give you a moment of it, like the holiday you so desperately need. Hot summer skin, salted air and dappled seas roll past you; Alaina Moore’s voice a cool drink of water under the blistering sun. So familiar, even at first sound and yet more reassuring than rut.