Back in April, i wandered into Decatur CD one Saturday morning to browse through the used CDs and pick up the new Spiritualized record. As i looked through the stacks, i was drawn to the CD playing on the sound system. "What is this?" i asked the old hippie at the counter. He pointed me towards Young & Old by Tennis. I had never heard of the band, but i found their sunshiny Motown-influenced pop to be enjoyable. So i picked up a copy...
It turns out this is their second release, and that the band is a husband and wife duo from Denver who have recently hired a drummer. So, this is a three piece act. The hired drummer is named James Barone. Alaina Moore sings and plays keyboards while her hubby Patrick Riley plays guitar. His playing style is a light, jangly strumming, and Moore plays with an organ sample on her keyboard, creating a nice retro drone behind the music. There is a real swagger to the music here, a certain happiness and a shuffling beat that is very Motown-ish.
In a way, much of the music that Tennis is doing reminds me of Australian band Do The Robot. Well, there is a little more early 70s pop thrown into the mix here, but the open feel of the music is similar. Both bands use space very well, allowing each instrument and sound plenty of space to reverb naturally. There are some vast differences between the bands though, specifically Moore's voice is very different from Sera Deasey's. Moore has a rather high-pitched voice, and at times she sings in a "little girl" voice that reminds me of Alison Shaw.
There are some great songs on this record. It kicks off on a high-note with It All Feels The Same, a catchy pop tune that swings along happily. Then, towards the end, Moore does something amazing. As the guitar is chiming, the drums are chugging, and the organ is droning, she sings a low subvocal oohing, that, the first dozen times i listened to this song, i thought was a muted trumpet, playing lightly. But no, it's her voice. Wow. A really cool effect.
On Origins Moore sounds like Alison Shaw on the verses, but on the chorus they layer in another vocal part, her singing backup to herself, which makes the song sound like something by Martha and the Vandellas. In general, this is a seventies-ish pop tune, Moore playing a staccato piano riff. My Better Self is a very similar song, the piano playing a slightly deeper register, and aahing backing vocals layered in.
It is back to the organ for Traveling, with Barone really banging away at his kit. Moore's voice in the foreground is subdued, speaking her words casually, while the layers in the background ooh and ahh lightly. This is very 1960s girl-group pop.
On Petition a staccato piano riff, sparse drumming, and a funky bass line makes me think of the mid 1970s, specifically Hall and Oates. Musically that is. Vocally Moore is singing through some distortion on the choruses, making this song a little moodier than the rest of the record.
Robin is a light early 60s pop tune, Moore singing wistfully in her youngest sounding voice while Barone taps lightly and Riley chimes away. This song is a little too sweet for my tastes.
Tennis get their motorik on for High Road, the drum beat a steady Teutonic thudding as Moore sings in a droning manner. This is refreshingly different for them, and really nice.
Dreaming is another pop ballad, kind of like Robin. Riley is using a little more tremolo here though. Take Me To Heaven continues that trend. This is a song made for sock-hops.
Finally the record ends with Never To Part, the organ a low drone over rumbling drums and slightly distorted guitar. A good end to the record.
My tolerance for high-pitched female voices singing 1960s pop might be a little bit higher than that of other listeners, so please take that into consideration. However, i find much to enjoy here.