Just as you thought you had gotten 2011’s “Marathon” out of your head, Denver’s favorite power couple, Tennis, composed of husband and wife Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley and drummer friend James Barone, has triumphantly returned with another batch of uber-catchy, lo-fi surf-rock tunes with its sophomore effort Young & Old. As oxymoronic as the term “Denver surf rock” may sound, the group’s second album has officially made it its trademark, as Young & Old continues the band’s Blondie-meets-Beach Boys sound.
Young & Old follows the same basic format of the groups’ debut album, Cape Dory, featuring simple, upbeat rhythms, deliciously twangy guitars and velvety, reverb-drenched vocals. On the new album, though, Moore gets quite a bit more love on the ivories as almost all the songs promote a more prominent keyboard element. Two of Moore’s most notable instrumental showcases are “My Better Self,” which offers an elegant, clean piano sound, and “Travelling,” which will more than quench your thirst for a ridiculously catchy, ‘60s style pop-rock tune with a zany, Mellotron-like melody.
The biggest change the group has made since Cape Dory is ditching the charming, maritime theme and replacing it with a much more mature, less tangible and existential focus of introspection and search for self-meaning. Don’t worry; the band is not having an identity crisis and has not betrayed its sound in the slightest. Young & Old merely showcases the two former philosophy majors getting more philosophical.
One doesn’t have to look much further than the track names to catch the drift: “Origins,” “My Better Self” and “Take Me To Heaven” are not exactly thematic enigmas.
Although the record doesn’t boast one definitive “hit” like Cape Dory’s “Marathon,” it still houses plenty of sultry, tonally divine Moore melodies and harmonies. It could possibly be argued that the album gets instrumentally repetitive, but the diversity of Moore’s melodies and the untouchable range and beauty of her voice keep the word “repetition” far from the listener’s mind.
While the entire album flows harmoniously from one track to the next, a noticeable highlight is the single “Origins,” a choppy bit of noise with a powerful, distorted, low-octave melody. Moore poses some abstract questions in the chorus, crooning: “Is it hard to forget the way we’ve been made to live? / How much is required to set things right?”
Another track that draws attention is “High Road,” which has the guitar, bass and percussion combination of a misplaced early Kings of Leon song, with a lip-smackingly sweet layer of Moore vocals and keyboard on top.
Tennis is one of the most organic and accessible groups the industry has seen in quite some time, and Young & Old stands as further evidence to this fact. All elements on the record complement each other perfectly, providing 10 three-and-a-half minute long nuggets of pure sonic bliss.
Tennis will perform at the Bluebird Theatre this Thursday for its record release show.