Tennis: “Ritual in Repeat”



Ritual in Repeat

[Communion, 2014]

by Alexandra Watts


When listening to a new album, it’s natural for a listener to anticipate the new sounds that will be present on the release. Will this album be the one where your band ditches poppy love songs for pre-psychedelic odes to Liverpool Streets?

When listening to the album, there is always that one “thing” heard on the recording that eases your mind and reminds you that no matter what the release, the band will still maintain some aspect of their past, making it easier to “accept” their new sound.

That thing in this case is Alaina Moore’s (the lead singer and Keri Russell look-a-like) voice, a soft yet distinctive tone, that is present in the all of Tennis’ songs.

Tennis is back with Ritual in Repeat, their first full-length album since 2012’s Young and Old. Small Sound, released in 2013, was a five track sampling to help us in love with this band survive before the release of this album.

Vintage-tinged instrumental backings and simple lyrics that make you think after you have gone to the next song are present on the 11 songs, which are all distinctive within themselves but follow a pattern of a clean sound. Each song leaves their specific mark on the album, and while all of the tracks complement each other, they are not mere replicants.

Lyrically, the album could be an indication of a future in love advice collumns and radio talk shows for Tennis.

“Needle and a Knife,” a track that kicks off with Fleet Foxes meet U2 drums, includes lyrics examining the effect of love on the psych: ”Only the lonely love can devour you, but when you’re lonely the same love empowers you.”

The song is later followed by what I think is one of the most simply put lyrics about the complexity of love: “And the mind is elevated, though the body devastated”

This is also found in “Timothy,” a track whose title reminds me of older songs utilizing names for the titles: “Timothy say something sweet to me. Say it slowly until you believe.”

Replace Timothy with the name of your love, and you have found one of the most relatable lyrics.

But the music is not pessimistic. It’s an honest and unabridged look at feelings, a complex area of life. Tennis contributes to better understanding by keeping their lyrics simplistic without sacrificing anything complex. Maintaing simplicity and complexity sounds paradoxical, but the essence of dichotomy is a common theme to Tennis’ work.

An example of this is found in the song “Bad Girls,” a standout track with lyrics focusing on the fragility of toughness: “Even bad girls have tender hearts. Even bad girls can fall apart.”

The fragility of the toughness is one of the dichotomous examples that shows up on the album. Another example is the pure influence of the past as opposed to Tennis’ place as a modern act. A lot of the songs are painted with a throwback edge, including “This Isn’t My Song,” a track that starts off with lazy guitar sounds and dissolves into a Shirelles beat if it were to take a walk on a mid-sixties beach boardwalk.

However, Tennis has a sound that sounds natural with the music of today. If you were put any song from this album next to a St. Vincent, Cults, or The New Pornographers, track, it would fit in just fine. Yes, there are tinges of the past, but it does not limit their sound from being any less listenable in a modern context.

No matter what the year, influence, lyric, or situation, Tennis has released a solid album that will appeal from the varied listeners who have been around since Cape Dory to the new listeners.