Sunday, 12 February 2012

Tennis - Young & Old

For a moment, album opener ‘It All Feels the Same’ lives up to its name; Tennis’s second long players starts in the same vein as debut Cape Dory, with its sunny reverb-drenched guitars and Alaina Moore’s distinctive, nostalgic vocals. Whilst Cape Dory was fresh, clean and blissfully carefree, it was not an album to go down in history. Much like with Vampire Weekend’s debut, the music felt so thin it could have blown away in the slightest of breezes. Tennis have however made a leap forward, but rather than one of game-changing excitement, it is one of mediocrity. The bass is heavier, the production is fuller, but the mood is... duller.

After its fairly insignificant opener, the album does make way for some interesting moments; ‘Origins’ welcomes a saxophone to the Tennis family (husband and wife duo Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley) and stand-out track ‘Travelling’ is a ball of energy in which Dick Dale guitars and resilient (but much welcomed) keyboards rattle chaotically, whilst Moore supports herself with her own lush harmonies. Its weaving melody and rhythmic urgency give it the staying power that much of Tennis’s debut missed, and its successor ‘Petition’ is just as exciting. Slower paced and strongly reminiscent in parts of New York pop group Cults’ self-titled debut, the song heavily streams R&B influences in its chorus, with Moore’s strong Destiny’s Child-esque vocals and backing “wooahs”.

The album however soon returns to mediocrity, and with that, a sense of familiarity. ‘High Road’ sounds like it is about to burst into life at any moment, but instead drifts into nothing, and the final two tracks, ‘Take Me to Heaven’ and ‘Never to Part’, are wholly unremarkable. ‘Dreaming’, like ‘High Road’, begins promisingly, but ultimately feels unfinished. The main problem on Young & Old is, as shown on these tracks, a sense of incompleteness, or even laziness. Whilst Cape Dory felt fresh and sugary, Young & Old feels undeveloped and unnecessarily heavy. Of course, endless comparisons to a previous album are cheap, and the highlights on the record do show signs of quality, but it’s hard to deny that the majority of the record becomes somewhat of a musical Groundhog Day, with its familiar drum patterns and pace. Whilst it is a listenable and, in parts, fairly enjoyable, it’s fair to say that Tennis’ phase of beaches, sea and sailing, has been replaced by a more forgettable and monotonous one.


William Hall

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