Monday 4 November 2013

Tennis - Small Sound

EP review by

This new EP will be the third major release from Tennis in as many years, and it's noticeable that each has been a slight step forward. Although many demos from debut album 'Cape Dory' were online in advance, when the album arrived it still had a definite lo-fi charm, but it was stunning. With last year's 'Young & Old' they ditched the beaches and moved away slightly from their previous DIY sound, a wise move as the whole lo-fi scene was already beginning to wane. Instead that album showed classic songwriting, influenced as much by Motown as indie music. Again it was a superb effort and the sound of a band steadily moving forward and maturing but without even losing their magic. New EP 'Small Sound' does the same again, showing a band that aren't remaining stationary but aren't falling into the comfort of the middle of the road. Just like 'Young & Old' took a few more spins than 'Cape Dory' to show its true colours, so too does 'Small Sound' take a while before all the pieces fall into place and it reveals itself to be another wonderful collection of songs.

Part of the reason for this is the lack of an obvious first single or radio track. They opted for the mid-paced 'Mean Streets' for this purpose; it might not be as immediate as some of their songs but soon it worms its way in, combining classic pop sounds with that amazing voice. Really it's a formula that can only fail if the writing standard slips, but Tennis refuse to let that happen. While it may be the lead-track, 'Mean Streets' isn't the highlight. The sunnier 'Timothy' harks back to that first album, incorporating a more tropical sound and surf guitars; yet once again it's all held together by superb songwriting, something this band are increasingly becoming masters of. If Tennis ever ends then surely careers as songwriters would be a viable option, and surely they'd be in high demand. That word continues to spring to mind: classic. 'Cured Of Youth' is exactly that. It could be from the '60s, the '70s, or any other time, and it brings in the same soulful sound that was found on some parts of 'Young & Old'. 'Dimming Light' is a pretty ballad incorporating the guitar sound that, although has been used by others, is fast becoming their trademark. The handclaps, the piano, the chorus; this is pop, and before the word "pop" should once more come "classic". Finally '100 Lovers' arrives, a timeless song that further shows that Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley have the skills to match those great songwriting couples that shaped the pop of the early '60s. The Brill Building would have welcomed them, and in '100 Lovers' they end with perhaps the highlight of 'Small Sound'. The good ship Tennis is sailing firmly on course.

Tennis' website

Buy the EP

Stream the EP in full

Catch them live:

Nov 05 Communion Presents @ Rockwood Music Hall, New York
Nov 06 Communion Presents @ Black Cat, Washington, DC
Nov 07 Communion Presents @ Underground Arts, Philadelphia
Nov 09 il Motore, Montreal, Canada
Nov 10 The Garrison, Toronto, Canada
Nov 12 Communion Presents @ Bluebird Nightclub, Bloomington, IN
Nov 13 Communion Presents @ Zanzabar, Louisville, KY
Nov 14 Communion Presents @ Mercy Lounge, Nashville, TN
Nov 16 Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL
Nov 17 Off Broadway, St Louis, MO
Nov 19 Communion Presents @ Varsity Theater, Minneapolis, MN
Nov 20 Communion Presents @ The Frequency, Madison, WI
Nov 21 Communion Presents @ Daytrotter, Maquoketa, IA
Nov 27 Bluebird Theater, Denver, CO

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