Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, the husband-wife duo behind Tennis, are synonymous with a lo-fi pop sound that sounds as if it was created with almost no effort.
It’s no surprise that the layered and dreamy sounds that have their origins in 1970s pop music, reflected by the band’s aesthetic of saturated press photos that appear to be straight out of the ‘70s and ‘80s, have become associated with low-key cool bands such as Urban Outfitters, have blogged for them in 2016.
What’s interesting about Tennis’s new album, Yours Conditionally, is that is buries darker themes of anxiety and romantic insecurity amongst its dreamy piano notes and Moore’s lilting vocals. While the songs might sound initially banal, the titles of each of the songs provide an instruction manual to listen closer: ‘In the Morning I’ll Be Better’ is the opener, with a characteristically melancholy sound, while my ‘My Emotions Are Blinding’ has a smooth feel even as Moore sings about hysteria.
At times, it’s a record that seems to contradict itself. ‘Ladies Don’t Play Guitar’ claims women only exist in order to love in both the moniker and the subject matter of the lyrics, however the fact that this is an exercise of highlighting Moore’s musical talents succeeds in conveying a different message.
It’s a mixed bag of emotions that lingers on the subject of relationships, focusing on the band’s marital dynamic rather than shying away from it. ‘Matrimony’ is saccharine in its talk of becoming a wife; ‘Baby Don’t Believe’ is a song that aims to convince its subject that waiting for another person to love you back is valid choice.
Having begun on marriage in the album’s focus on the course of relationships, it begins to work retroactively: ’10 Minutes 10 Years’ is about the uncertainty of the thoughts we have when we finds ourselves in love – it’s not rational, as “we are only single moments/strung together.”
‘Modern Woman’ characterises this further, even as an investigation into the interactions between the singer and a woman called Kate: ”I think I might have made it real / All I want is comfort in a touch or a look.”
Tennis might sound laidback and at ease, but by spelling out the motifs of each song to the casual listener via each title, they are guided toward the revelation that all the assumed tranquility in the world can’t guard you from insecurity.