Tennis: “Long Boat Pass”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Tennis-Long-Boat-Pass.mp3|titles=Tennis: “Long Boat Pass”]
Fiction is at the heart of pipe dreams. Rarely when we scheme something far-fetched or grandiose do we actually follow through in executing our plan, especially if it’s something as profound as selling all of our possessions and sailing across the map for about a year or so. But that is precisely what husband-and-wife duo Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, the masterminds behind indie-pop outfit Tennis, did.
After graduating from college, the two philosophy majors sold their belongings and ventured away from Denver to embark on the unknown by means of a sailboat — a plan for which they prepared extensively. Navigating around North America, the couple then decided to document the experience, not through film or memoir, but through music. And thus Tennis was born.
From the get-go, Cape Dory, the couple’s debut effort on Fat Possum, gives you a glimpse of what its voyage must have been like. With 10 songs clocking in at less than 30 minutes, Riley and Moore’s feeling of staying put for too long in any one place is almost tangible. Once the album sets sail, it’s ready to move along without the need of staying anchored in any one spot. The songs, with titles like “South Carolina,” “Baltimore,” and “Bimini Bay,” move along swiftly, as the band looks to cover the most ground (or water, rather) in the quickest amount of time.
You might think that seven months at sea would make way for a darker side — for lovelorn, seasick, lonesome ballads — but Tennis is content with showing the sunny side of things. Track after track, Cape Dory is packed full of quick, dreamy, pop-infused melodies, mixing elements of doo-wop and lo-fi indie pop together in a seemingly effortless manner. The band’s love-drenched, homemade, sunny pop songs are held together by stripped-down arrangements and soaring melodies. Cape Dory is riddled with hooks and harmonies, evoking catchy Walkmen-esque guitar riffs (“Take Me Somewhere,” “Cape Dory”) meshed with less raucous Best Coast poppiness (“Seafarer,” “Long Boat Pass”).
And, in keeping in step with its contemporaries, Tennis is quite content to go with the flow. Its carefree aura propels each song forward, swelling and rolling from one to the next, offering listeners a poignant charm and lightheartedness as the songs rise and fall between tempered punk pop and slowed-down sing-a-longs. Moreover, the descriptive writing in songs like “Marathon” helps to summon the winds and shorelines witnessed on the nautical voyage, while keeping the experience just beyond arms’ reach.
In a music scene wholly preoccupied with image and pretension, Tennis’ come-what-may attitude offers a breath of fresh air. Cape Dory is a photo album for us to reference. The songs are good — plain and simple — and they capture a moment in time when the couple was full of promise, going wherever the hell it wanted and doing whatever the hell it wanted. Thankfully for us, the duo decided to document the experience in a lovely series of snapshots, exposed for all to see. If the refreshing Cape Dory is any indication of what lies beyond the band’s horizon, it’s should be smooth sailing from here.