A blonde model flaunts a new record with exaggerated arm movements and facial expressions. It’s an infomerical stylized straight from the seventies with a touch of QVC convincing shoppers to pick up their cord-attached phone and buy the must-have album without hesitation and before it’s too late. This is the first thing that one observes when they visit the official website of chillwave-indie-pop duo Tennis. The advertisement is full of sarcastic humour and is a social commentary on both feminism and the money-making side of the record industry. It hints at the content within their fourth album Yours Conditionally and the interesting approach that the husband-and-wife team had to their new release.
Vocalist and principle songwriter Alaina Moore and guitarist Patrick Riley started to feel suffocated by the meddling suits of the music business who dictated a lot of the decisions of the second and third album and decided it was time to return to the vast open space of inspiration that breathed air into their first album. The ocean. They began sailing again (as they did when they first became musicians) and it is here that they felt free again. “Follow me into the sweet fields of blue, moving right into deliver you” is a line on track 3 that’s straight from their shipping log.
However, Yours Conditonally isn’t filled with boating terms like their debut Cape Dory but the trip is significant in giving the group the daring mentality to set themselves free and do whatever they feel is right, without caring about pleasing everyone. Several tracks on the album have this breezy, Hawaiian blissfulness that imagines the duo sitting on the bow of their boat with their legs dangling just above the blue. With this feeling being aided by the relaxing ease of listening to Alaina Moore’s retro voice – something that’s at it’s best in the distant echoness of ‘Island Music’.
Despite the similar back story, Yours Conditionally isn’t a direct circle back to their first album. The sound leans a bit more towards 1970s folk in the style of Carole King (see matching haircuts) and this decade is backed up by their music videos and Instagram photography and contains only marginal elements of the 1950’s surf via The Shirelles doo-wop of the their inauguration through the style of the backing vocals.
Moore and Riley are an unashamedly happily married couple. Usually this isn’t a good basis for striking lyrics but what Tennis do is pair the romanticness of soulmates (‘Matrimony’, ‘10 Minutes 10 Years’) with the equally importance of being an individual too, especially from a female perspective. ‘Baby Don’t Believe’ is so warm and cosy it imagines clanging two wine glasses together by a fireplace but has a nice message about the freedom within a good bond: “When you took my hand but let me hold it freely.”
Perhaps due to its subtlety and the complimentrary connection between the two musicians, it’s easy to miss the more thought-provoking sarcasm within. ‘Ladies Don’t Play Guitar’ is about women who give in to the expectations of their husband as baby-makers instead of dream-followers: “Try to build a legacy, that will not complicate the future of your own progeny“. ‘My Emotions are Binding’ pokes fun at the emotional side to a woman’s unpredictable psyche and ‘Modern Woman’ compares the simplicity of the female role back in the day compared to now.
With their teaser single ‘In the Morning I’ll Be Better’ written as a reassuring comfort song to the terminally ill friend of Patrick Riley, it sums up the admirable kindness behind a band like Tennis. A duo that combine intelligent wit with a rare genuine conscience. As stated in the informerical: “made by Real artists.”
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