Release Date: Mar 10, 2017
Record label: Mutually Detrimental
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
After their third album, the slickly poppy Ritual in Repeat, Tennis did a bit of gentle rebooting. They shed a drummer, started their own label, and hit the open seas again to rekindle their songwriting flow, which had run ashore. They also took the wheel in the studio, throwing fancy producers overboard and halting the progression that saw each album they released becoming more and more slick.
There seems to be a general feeling that pop music should stay a bit simple or escapist and not move through a multitude of moods and notions in the span of one song. That's could be why, six years in and four albums deep, there's still some hesitation toward categorizing Tennis as a "pop group." The duo's latest, Yours Conditionally should settle that issue at last. It's a collection that explores the uncertainty of one's identity and their understanding of past experiences and current trajectory.
Let's be honest, Tennis were borne of a fad. As 2010 came to a close, bands who could fit comfortably on your dad's record table, but throbbed with new life and indie vibes were certainly of the moment. The arguable permeaters of the movement, Best Coast, would limp into a diminished, if pleasant, sophomore LP a year later, but 2011 already saw other acts taking up the mantle, whether Cults or Tennis, yet the buzz was already moving on.
But the beauty of Tennis is that they exist in a far more cynical age, one in which their sweet, summery tunes serve as an artifice that allows singer Alaina Moore to subvert conventional romantic notions and use her sugary falsetto to lull you into a false sense of security that she erodes more and more with each line. The title of their latest LP, Yours Conditionally, alludes to this well-executed ploy, and the album itself is both sonically syrupy and thematically coy. "I'm just a vehicle and I won't be back again", Moore sings on the biting "My Emotions are Blinding", a sendup of the one-dimensional, lovesick female character that vocalists are often forced to play in pop music.
The formula that seems to work for the husband and wife duo Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore is to set out to sea and become inspired to make a record. Their first, Cape Dory, was conceived after a seven-month sailing excursion on a boat they bought together after college. Like a novelist who discovers that private location that yields a great book, the two returned to the open waters, this time on a five-month sail through the Sea of Cortez, to write Yours Conditionally, and then hunkered down in a Colorado cabin to record it.
Fresh 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.
By now, most have probably already formed an opinion of husband-and-wife duo Tennis and their light, sunny brand of indie pop. The band has a signature style that is either cloyingly cute or refreshingly summery depending on the listener. We first became acquainted with Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley on 2011’s Cape Dory, which chronicled the pair’s seven-month voyage aboard a sailboat.
If you know just one thing about the duo Tennis, it's probably that they were born at sea. Their craft is called Swift Ranger, it's 30 feet from stem to stern, and it inspired Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore's first album, 2011's Cape Dory . For their latest, Yours Conditionally , Tennis clambered back onto the boat for an ocean jaunt--from San Diego to the Sea of Cortez--and, they hoped, for artistic rejuvenation.
It was bound to happen sooner or later. Just over five years after their debut, Tennis have taken back to the water to create a new album - their fourth, Yours Conditionally. You might remember that back in 2011, their breezy debut Cape Dory sailed across the blogs on a wave of novelty: A husband and wife duo who wrote a bunch of songs on a shared sailing trip together.