Tennis

Ritual in Repeat

Communion

Sep 09, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Tennis have made a solid career from their shimmering dream-pop shtick. Since releasing nautically-themed debut Cape Dory in 2011, the husband/wife pairing Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley have gone on to achieve respectable indie fame, notching up a cluster of fawning celebrity fans along the way.

Yet, there's always been a niggling doubt about the Denver duo's artistic merit. Their sweet lo-fi arrangements, while filled with lilting melodies and romantic refrains, have never quite achieved the acclaim of Beach House or Grizzly Bear.  While those guys had substance, Tennis were throwaway.

Third album, Ritual in Repeat, attempts to redress the balance. Described by the band as an effort to "challenge ourselves and transform musically," these 12 cuts find Tennis stepping away from lo-fidelity glistening and into more preened territory. In fact, if you listen closely to "I'm Callin'" you can almost hear early-days Madonna cavorting in its sweet, gliding melody.

While it's not a pure pop spectacle, these numbers certainly owe a lot to the sounds of the past. "Needle and a Knife" is a tender '80s bubble-blowing breeze; the pert guitar swoosh of "Viv Without the N" is ripped straight out of Orange Juice's back catalogue; and "Wounded Heart" flutters to Joni Mitchell-like folk pleading.

Admittedly, it's an intriguing attempt at reinvigorating an established sound. But far too often it fails to connect, with many numbers drifting out as the feeble efforts of a band that's lost confidence in itself. Sometimes, just sometimes, it's best to stick with what you know. (www.tennis-music.com)

Author rating: 6/10

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