MORE OF THE SAME, TAKE THAT HOW YOU WILL
I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t initially fall under the spell of Tennis’s dreamy sentiment on last year’s Cape Dory upon first listen. Their sound was so vintage and so spot-on for what they were going for that I imagined the album guaranteeing itself a spot in my top ten by the end of the year. As it were, after multiple listens, they began to feel more and more like a one trick pony. They were excellent at evoking classic girl pop and sounding a whole heck of a lot like the Go-Gos but didn’t seem capable of doing much else. Don’t get me wrong, the album was enjoyable to listen to, but it all kind of blends together after certain point. You can only write so many throwbacks about sailing.
Nonetheless, I was pretty excited to see that they managed a rapid turnaround (a mere thirteen months between releases) and had Young & Old out on Valentine’s Day (Awwwwww). The husband-and-wife duo of Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley brought in Black Keys’ drummer, Patrick Carney (easy way to score points with me), as a producer, presumably to give the band a little bit more edge. Well, Young & Old definitely has more edge than Cape Dory but that’s really like saying Fraggle Rock had more edge than Sesame Street. Carney’s fingerprints can be found with some of his typical drumbeats and subtle brass section blends, most noticeably on “Petition.” Moore pulls out some more of her mesmerizing vocals on sappy tracks like “Take Me to Heaven” and “My Better Self.” She really has the perfect voice for this. There are times where she is completely indistinguishable from Belinda Carlisle. For this somewhat gimmicky concept that the band is going for, she delivers once again. Without her yester-year voice, the songs would be oozing with too much camp for anyone to take. As for Riley, well I’m not really sure what he’s doing here. He sounds like he’s doing his best to get that beachy guitar sound. At times, he does possess the ability to lull us to sleep (in a good way) in an upbeat number like (ironically) “Dreaming.” Other that, he gets consistently outmuscled by his wife’s talents.
If you’re a big Tennis fan that the album will oblige you in every way. It has all the easy-listening appetizers you could ask for without any of the sailing references. As a band, though, I don’t see this outing taking them much further than where they were with Cape Dory. The songs are so similar (sans the occasional Carney beat) that they could have been smooshed together for one twenty-track album. Cape Old or Young & Dory. I don’t really know where a band like this goes. They’re kind of tied this specific style, but if they keep sticking with this sound, it’s going to get old fast. Even Cape Dory felt too similar after a while, so you can imagine what ten more songs like that will do. Fittingly enough, the album’s opening track is “It All Feels the Same.” Well put.