Are you digging that girl group fuzz-pop sound that’s so prominent these days, but you’re not as keen on Best Coast’s “Free Weezy” attitude or the Dum Dum Girls’ oft-edgy near-punk sounds? Well, then Tennis is probably just right for you.
The husband and wife duo of Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore started their band, of all places, on a boat. The Denver couple, as the hip, buzz-friendly legend goes, sold all of their gear in order to buy a boat and sail the Atlantic coast for eight months, out for adventure and excitement. And, as one might expect, the waves and sea breeze crept their way into the music the two wrote together on their trip. Even without being able to carry along any instruments, they wrote music along the way taking song titles from ports of call or other sites. “The isolation of our boat made music seem personal and innocent again,” Moore told Mint Magazine in July.
Now, three sold out releases later (a tape on Sixteen Tambourines, and a 7″ apiece on Underwater Peoples and Fire Talk ), plans for a full-length are coming together, and it looks as if it’ll exclusively feature songs about/written on their sailing journey. But it all boils down to the Shirelles: “One day we were in a bar in the Florida Keys and ‘Baby It’s You’ by the Shirelles came on,” Moore told the New York Times. “We’d never heard it before, but we loved the wall-of-sound thing, and decided right then that we’d try to create that when we got back.”
On the title track of their Fire Talk release, “South Carolina”, Moore’s self-harmonies lilt and swoon like they were built for Phil Spector. Riley’s slinky, surfy guitar cranks and swings like tight-cropped waves. The simply saccharine lyrics (“We’ll make a family in the quiet country, you and me in simplicity”), low-slung, barely noticeable bass, and jumpy drums come together sweetly, the warmth of the song’s subject wrapping around you , making it impossible to doubt any of the sincerity or joy.
The origin story might come off as a bit of a cliche, a publicist’s adorable indie jackpot, but it never comes off forced, whether musically or in interviews. When Moore told Mint that the group’s handmade record sleeves and its work with indie labels “has created a nice family that will continue long after Tennis puts out its final album,” it comes off as entirely believable. And it isn’t just me that’s buying into the community business; It’s no coincidence those 7″s sold out so quick.
“Marathon”, off of the group’s self-titled Underwater Peoples 7″, takes the community the group’s fostering to the sock-hop, humming organ and snap-pop rhythm bob underneath Moore’s ethereal vocals. But when a few more cooing sets of wordless harmonies drop into the mix, the real magic is made. Fuzzy guitars and hopping drums bob along the shore on “shifty wind that gusts and dives.”
Only time will tell what they’ll do for their second disc of songs, once they’ve gotten this sailing adventure out of their systems. Maybe a hiking trek through South America will give them some more material. But, in the end, Tennis is just about too cute to exist. That being said, cute isn’t everybody’s thing; Heck, it typically isn’t mine. But when it’s this convincing, this sweet, this good sounding, this real…it’s totally worth giving into cute.
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