Tennis is one of those names that crept into the music blogger’s vocabulary very stealthily, without much fanfare and without much fuss. One minute we were Tennis-less, the next, it was as though we’d never been without them. They very quickly became a staple of the lo-fi playlist, with their homemade tracks, recorded on a dusty 8-track, attracting a lot of attention on both sides of the Atlantic.
The husband/wife duo that make up Tennis – singer/keys player Alaina Moore and guitarist Patrick Riley’s story was also widely spread around internet parts, for theirs is no ordinary tale. The pair met at college in Denver, where they decided to embark upon an epic, modern world shunning voyage across the sea. As such, they sold all of their belongings, packed up, bought a boat, did it up and set off on what would be a life-changing adventure. Cape Dory is not only the title of the album, but also the name of the vessel which would play host to the pair as they set sail along the eastern coast of America, with little experience but a lot of desire to do it.
Each song on the album recounts a story from the couple’s time at sea, with the pair using this record as an outlet for their tales and for the shared love of music that they discovered whilst away. The lyrics throughout are unapologetically literal, such as in first track ‘Take Me Somewhere’, “Sitting on the sand/Waiting for you to return to land”. Such a narrative writing style makes the album feel almost like a film soundtrack, really adding to the charmingly conceptual nature of the album. At the same time, the words are uninhibitedly romantic, making for an honest, romantic collection of songs. With such a vivid story being told, it would be easy to overlook the music happening around the lyrics. But propping up Alaina’s tales are the masterful guitar weavings of her husband, Patrick. His melodies are fairly sparse, but beautiful, creating a gorgeous landscape in which to share their stories.
Alaina’s soft, yet extremely capable vocals hark back to doo-wop girl groups of the early 60s, and the guitar melodies carry a tone akin to that used by The Walkmen. Such a marriage makes for a light, seemingly uncomplicated album of songs which drift effortlessly throughout the half hour span of the record. ‘Pigeon’ is a particularly poignant number, with Patrick’s delicate guitar line lilting over the top of a gentle organ rhythm. It’s a song that could easily have been plucked from a 50s high school prom – it’s classic, nostalgic and achingly romantic.
Cape Dory is a really sweet album, which works just as well in these late spring moments as it did during the darkest depths of winter when it came out stateside, and when Tennis made appearances around Europe in support of its release. The tunes are simple but intelligent, tender yet not sickly sweet, playful and light. Many groups that become blogger’s darlings disappear very quickly, but Tennis show with this album that they have the passion and ability to stick around for a little longer yet.