Tennis: Swimmer (Mutually Detrimental) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, September 21st, 2020  

Tennis

Swimmer

Mutually Detrimental

Feb 14, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Some 80 years ago, John Steinbeck and his longtime friend, biologist Ed Ricketts, put out into the Sea of Cortez (aka the Gulf of California for you modernists) on an expedition to collect marine invertebrates. Though undoubtedly a successful journey, the two also consumed copious amounts of Carta Blanca beer and peacefully lived off the grid in the early days of World War II.  Perhaps it's more difficult to "get lost" these days, but the husband and wife duo Tennis (Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore) managed to repeatedly retreat to sailing excursions to spark their next flurry of creativity. Here on their fifth album, Swimmer, Riley and Moore return from the same waters that Steinbeck navigated and bring back their most varied collection of tunes yet.

It was apparent when Swimmer's initial single "Runner" was released last fall that the duo had left behind its pensive nostalgia in favor of the here and now. The song's intertwining of sexual attraction and biblical allusions mix well with the layered synths and chunkier beats. The balance of Swimmer, including the equally athletic title track, proves worth the wait. Even the woozier ballads like "Late Night" and the opening "I'll Haunt You" give way to more muscular closes.

The mix of Riley's fluid electric guitar lines and Moore's soulful vocals on "Echoes" hides the song's more serious meaning. The duo had more than their share of loss and challenges while touring in support of 2017's Yours Conditionally. To the point where they almost hung it up for good. Thankfully they have come back stronger than ever and deliver career highlights like the multi-part "Need Your Love." One of their most substantial songs to date, it unfolds in stop/start passages of verse, chorus, bridge that uphold the punchy drumbeats that kick it off. Moore's vocals throughout the album show her capable of withstanding heavier passages, while also right at home with the geographically displaced calypso stylings of "Tender as a Tomb."              

Parts of Swimmer may have been born of adversity, but Riley and Moore come up shining in the end. The couple's sailing expeditions have served to clear their heads and spur creativity. Whether the day brings tragedy or joy Riley and Moore are in it equally and the album's sturdier frame suits the duo well for the long haul. You may not get to choose the hand you are dealt or the part you play, but like the specimens Steinbeck collected, Tennis has adapted well. After much time to reflect on his journey, Steinbeck instructed his reader to "look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool." It was his way of saying all of us and everything in this expanding universe are made of the same stuff. And in Swimmer's case, Tennis' stuff is very good. (www.tennis-music.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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