There’s a pretty standard repertoire of post-graduation options: Grad school. Gap year. Job. Move home. Sell your possessions, sail for eight months and make an album inspired by the trip. Husband and wife Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore of the band Tennis went with the last option and ended up sort of famous. Beats med school!

Tennis

Young & Old
Fat Possum


Last time Moore and Riley were on the radar, they were known as the couple that makes short, sunny tunes about their seafaring vacation. While their 2011 album Cape Dory was a direct response to their voyage, consisting entirely of tracks like “Seafarer” and “Waterbirds,” their newest LP, Young & Old, offers a more diverse, land-locked mix. Cape Dory was created as more of a souvenir from their travels — a way to remember various reefs and bays. With their newly acquired and unexpected popularity, however, Tennis realized its next album couldn’t be as self-indulgent.

Young & Old opens with “It All Feels the Same,” a track that begins by sounding like a confident sequel to the band’s first album. It’s easygoing and pleasant, and Moore’s honeysweet, overly girlish vocals haven’t changed a bit. The chorus appears a couple minutes in, and listeners get the first hint that this won’t be a complete repeat of what made Cape Dory successful. The tempo picks up and the guitars become slightly grungy — there’s a feeling of frustration you won’t get when strolling a beach.

Subsequent tracks continue to surprise. “Origins,” the album’s first single, is an infectious track with pounding pianos and jazzy brass. While Tennis is seemingly incapable of losing its sugary sound, the band has drawn from a greater pool of influences for this album. “My Better Self” includes a slightly hip-hop-sounding beat, and “Petition” sounds like a sped-up disco hit straight from the ’70s. Unlike the cheery hollowness of Cape Dory, Young & Old has a fleshed-out sound thanks to the talents of producer Patrick Carney (of the Black Keys). The LP seems like less of a side project and more like an actual piece of music with purpose and passion.

Unfortunately, Young & Old is pretty front-loaded. While some bands may be able to get away with this, Tennis’s 33-minute LP doesn’t have any time to waste. About halfway through, the track “Robin” starts off sounding typically Tennis — bopping and cute. Moore’s vocals are attractive, but after a while they’re sort of like looking at pictures of sunsets on beaches — nice, but the same every time, and leaving much to be desired. “Robin” is saved by the stimulation of an oscillating guitar backing the chorus, but that seems to be the last thread of hope.

The rest of Young & Old consists of cutesy bell noises, twee garage rock and choruses composed principally of Moore’s “ooh”-ing, which we’ve been hearing the entire album. It’s as if Tennis is patting itself on the back for a job well done and reminiscing about past successes without realizing there’s still half an album left. But the most frustrating part is when Moore begins complaining. In “High Road,” she belts out “paradise is all around but happiness is never found.” So, you vacationed for eight months at sea with the man you love and then returned home to become well-received musicians that play shows like Lollapalooza, and now you’re sad? Sorry, no sympathy.

The album concludes with “Never to Part,” an OK song that’s pretty boring, except for some random electronic additions. And then Young & Old is abruptly over. Tennis was wrong with its first track’s title — it doesn’t all feel the same as Cape Dory. There are plenty of similarities between the two LPs, but as a professional band, Tennis is certainly improving.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.