Artist Spotlight by: Anna Prenzler
Tennis delivers the bubbly feeling of a pop group plus the vibe of a soul-searching indie-folk group. Comprised of the husband and wife duo Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, the Denver-based indie pop group equally contributes to songwriting while Riley takes over guitar and Moore vocalizes. The band thrives with looped harmonies, meaningful lyrics, and light pop beats, transporting listeners to a place of both burden and bliss.
Tennis’ debut album, Cape Dory, released in 2011, establishes their unique sound with songs like “Take Me Somewhere,” where the beat is light and catchy and the lyrics remind you of a sunshine-filled ride in your dream convertible. Tennis’ sound was reportedly born when the couple was sailing and heard “Baby it’s You” by the Shirelles. They were inspired by the way it was mixed and recorded, and decided that they should create something of their own. This influence is evident throughout Cape Dory through its plethora of “high-tide” and “coconut” references as well as the light harmonies coating each chorus. Specifically, “Marathon” (Adrift in the shallows/ a modest repose/Adorn with coral/Your bright colors show) highlights this beach-like feel.
Their second album Young & Old, released in 2012, is nowhere near a sophomore slump. They build off of their established light beach-like sound, but darken it with hauntingly meaningful lyrics and driving guitar lines. I first heard Tennis when their song “My Better Self” appeared on my Pandora radio. It’s the kind of song where you instantaneously tap your foot without noticing. But it does more than capture your attention for a few minutes. It makes you respect their music, and if you’re anything like me, it transforms you into a full-fledged fan of the “non-athletic form” of Tennis. It’s difficult to handpick a few favorites off of this album because every single song is top notch. But enough of me kissing the ground that Tennis walks on – the key songs off Young & Old include “Origins,” “My Better Self,” “Take Me to Heaven,” and “Vegas” (bonus track).
Unlike Tennis’ sophomore album, their third album released in 2014, Ritual in Repeat did not immediately hypnotize me. The duo took a chance and incorporated more of an electronic, faded feel. At first glance, without the correct setting or sound system, this album might not impress. But this album grows on you like ivy on a castle wall. The lyrics on this album go to a place much deeper than any of Tennis’ previous work. Specifically, “Night Vision” (Looking across the street lights/See the colors they obscure/Straining your night vision/For a glimpse of something pure) transformed Tennis from an off-the-beaten-track indie duo to a group to truly be reckoned with. “Bad Girls” capitalizes on Riley’s guitar skills to create a harsher sound for the group. Additionally, Moore showcases her ability to go beyond her harmonic, breathy tone by delivering a powerful belting quality throughout the song. “Wounded Heart” reveals a new legato, acoustic sound of the duo. This album shows that Tennis is capable of more than a light, pop sound by delivering a soul-searching, gritty vibe (Here bring your wounded heart/Here tell your anguish).
Tennis’ dedication to character has earned them performances on the Late Show with David Letterman and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno back in 2012. They attribute Phil Collins, Fleetwood Mac, and Patti Smith as major influencers of their sound, but don’t keep up with current music while they are writing. However, the couple has been listening to groups such as Chairlift and Real Estate in their spare time. The group started touring this year with various openers starting March 7th in Denver and will end on May 22nd in Kansas City, MO. Catch them nearby at The Loving Touch in Ferndale, MI on May 20th with opener Kuroma.