Escape is a valuable commodity. And Tennis regularly give you a moment of it, like the holiday you so desperately need. Hot summer skin, salted air and dappled seas roll past you; Alaina Moore’s voice a cool drink of water under the blistering sun.
So familiar, even at first sound and yet more reassuring than rut. This conjugated, Denver-based band have a discography firmly planted in a very particular semantic field, where bowline knots and starboard tacks are as common as lemon and lime.
“Mean Streets” is a wonderful, hazy welcome, with stripped-back portions that emerge among a gentle, rolling strut. A song for soft summer days with skipping ropes, BBQs and bubble gum bubbles so huge they stick to your cheeks as they pop. It’s a tune that looks backwards, with influences from so many yesterdays, but one that moves ever forwards with each note.
Plenty of the classic territory remains where gradual, seductive, heartbreaking layers lilt towards a powdery shore. “Timothy” starts at this point, swinging later into a driving, irresistible hook that circles: “Love, love will make a man blind and a hard heart gets harder with time”, melting and meshing the track with those surrounding it.
There’s a slightly more mature edge that hides inside this handful of songs, with more pace in parts. And nothing sounds more forward facing or impressive than “Cured of Youth” – dead centre and pushing out in every direction. Its difference is apparent from the very top, as it takes notes from shelves dotted about under umbrellas of R’n’B emulating some of the most playful parts of northern soul.
“Dimming Light” has a filthy sway that feels like deep velvet against the clear, polished, soulful chorus that shifts its weight in a perfectly pitched fashion and “100 lovers” paints heartbreak with light-hearted colours in a moral tale. One after another these last two tracks give a heavy, satisfying bottom note to this repertoire.
Small Sound EP is a clutch of contrast. Not just from track to track to track but between the soft call of Moore’s voice, the lyrics pouring gently from her mouth like small, smooth pebbles and the intonated bite; and between the calm and the crashing seas, with a driving rip that jives underneath both. It’s 17 near-perfect minutes that whisk you from sparkling seas across soft, white sands to smoky late-night bars beneath torrential rain, full of soul notes that lift the rafters. It’s a tiny, little, beautiful adventure.