When first we heard from Tennis they had an incredible amount of positive buzz attached to their name. With only one single and a story that chronicled a long term romance filled with university life, sailing trips, and marriage, Tennis reached for the top of the blogosphere and generated the kind of hype that a major label’s marketing team can only dream of. But having a hit debut album can be both a blessing and a curse. Although Tennis received a considerable amount of praise for Cape Dory, they needed another well-received record to keep the momentum going.
With Young & Old, Tennis take a step in the right direction for their career. Young & Old is an album sitting on the fence between comfort and foreign territory. The best maturation processes take time and Tennis seem to understand this. Although we still hear their classic sound (‘Robin’ is a great example), compared to its predecessor, Young & Old has a sound that is more developed, and more meticulous in its production.
I chatted with guitarist Patrick Riley in September of last year about the future of Tennis, and it was then that he first commented about a new record in the works. Then December came along, and Tennis performed at the Biltmore Cabaret in Vancouver; this marked the first time Tennis had performed their new material in Vancouver. The addition of an extra touring musician, and a more confident front woman, signified that something was happening to the band as a whole. It was not so much a period of radical change, but rather a period of growth and development; they really couldn’t have named this album any better. Young & Old, nostalgic and new, the album will win the hearts of fans already attached to the surf-rock sounds, and it will also grab the attention of a considerable amount of first-time listeners. Vocalist Alaina Moore exemplifies a front woman who has discovered a new sense of confidence in her voice, ‘Petition’ and ‘Origins’ are the clearest examples of this.
Thanks to the tutelage of producer Patrick Carney (drummer for the Black Keys) and engineer Roger Moutenot (who has been around since Lou Reed’s heyday, and is also a close friend of Yo La Tengo) Tennis has taken the most salient elements of Cape Dory and lit a fire underneath it. Whether it’s the full bodied crash symbols on ‘High Road’ or the soul-revivalist guitar melodies on ‘Origins’, the production that Moutenot and Carney provided the band is undeniable, and the end product is a fuller sound, worthy of sophomore success.
Musically, Tennis has strengthened their backbone. There is an undeniable rock ‘n’ roll edge to the new album; with harder hitting drums and grittier guitar hooks, Moore’s voice is allowed to kick ass – and kick ass she does. Apart from the accolades for Young & Old, Tennis still has a lot of work cut out for them, and their next endeavors will tell if the young indie rockers are able to endure another maturation process. Time will tell, but until then, Tennis is a band worthy of our time, and respect.