The music of Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, better known as Tennis, is full of old ideas in the best possible sense: fey c86 melodies, dense, reverberating layers reminiscent of Phil Spector’s patented wall of sound, even the gently shuffling drums that propel their hazy pop songs is suggestive of the 60s girl groups that the producer made his name with.
The latest incarnation of the tried and tested husband-and-wife duo formula, their output’s back-story has a familiar ring to it, too. Fulfilling Riley’s childhood dream, the couple embarked on an eight-month sailing expedition along the Atlantic coast, isolated from the mainland physically as well as metaphorically. Upon returning the couple – frustrated by their inability to adequately convey their remarkable journey – reacquired the instruments they’d sold to fund it and, a few months later, Tennis and a smattering of impressive 7’s and EPs were born bearing the names of their journey’s destinations (“Baltimore”, “South Carolina”, “Marathon”) and, naturally, the name of their boat, the “Cape Dory”.
Having such a fantastical back-story infuses the track’s already memory-laden nature with a genuine authenticity that transforms them into heartfelt songs rather than indulgent genre exercises by a bored couple. It is all a little Bon Iver, but unlike that questionable Wisconsin log cabin exile the couple do have a blogspot (http://whitesatingloves.blogspot.com/) detailing their nautical navigations should you want to investigate its truthfulness.
Despite the pair’s magpie tendencies, the influences are never overbearing. The songs out there so far retain a unique identity and an evident nautical theme. On Marathon, bobbing organs imitate billowing coastal breezes, reverby tremolo guitar brings to mind shimmering sunlight on gentle seas whilst Moore’s windswept vocals deliver poetic meditations that detail their voyage in a literal sense, but as with most journeys depicted in pop, the high tides and explorations offer oceans of more poetic interpretations for those less inclined to a life on the waves. It’s glorious sun-kissed surf pop, just a few miles off shore.
There’s news that the couple have scrimped and saved for another journey on the high-seas to find inspiration for the sophomore album, a proposition that brings to mind Sufjan Steven’s short-lived 50 states project. Though, if their much anticipated debut displays the same promise as these early MP3s, it’d be silly to begrudge their indulgence in other people’s ideas when the results are so watertight.