When listeners first heard “Cape Dory,” the 2011 debut album from husband-and-wife duo Tennis, they could have easily mistaken the act’s music for previously unheard oldies from AM radio’s golden era of the early 1970s. Both Alainna Moore’s sweet voice and Tennis’ intentionally retro-minded songcraft and arrangement gave the band’s music a distinctly nostalgic air.
Since then, the duo has refined and developed its musical approach. While on their early records, Moore and husband Patrick Riley shared songwriting and production duties, as time has worn on they’ve discovered that an intelligent division of labor yields more effective results. These days, Moore writes most of the music and lyrics, while multi-instrumentalist Riley focuses on crafting Tennis’ sonic landscape.
The result of these changes is on full display on Tennis’ fourth full-length album, “Yours Conditionally” (released last March) and a new EP released in November, “We Can Die Happy.” While Tennis’ early music bore the overt influence of Brill Building pop, the songs on “We Can Die Happy” show that Moore and Riley have defined an identity that—while still built upon sounds and styles of decades past—leans in a more timeless direction now.
The new EP’s “Born to Be Needed” is an exemplar of the duo’s current approach. The song’s hypnotic refrain (“Do it again”) may well encourage those spinning the CD to do it again as well. Moore’s kittenish vocals are still at the center of all of Tennis’ songs, and knowledge gained through extensive live performances has encouraged the duo to come up with more up-tempo tunes than they once did. The duo’s reliance on lo-fi textures (most notably the intentional use of tinny-sounding drum machines) gives Tennis’ music a sound that splits the difference between Captain and Tennille-flavored pop and a richly melodic and hooky version of current-day indie rock.
January 13, 9pm at Metro, 3730 North Clark, (773)549-4140. $19.
Author: Bill Kopp
With a background in marketing and advertising, Bill Kopp got his professional start writing for Trouser Press. His more than 2,500 interviews, essays, and reviews reflect Bill’s keen interest in American musical forms, most notably rock, jazz and soul. His work features a special emphasis on reissues and vinyl. Bill’s work also appears in many other outlets both online and in print. He also researches and authors liner notes for album reissues, and co-produced a reissue of jazz legend Julian “Cannonball” Adderley’s final album. His first book, “Reinventing Pink Floyd,” is due from Rowman & Littlefield in February 2018.