Tennis‘ 2011 debut album, Cape Dory was solely a product of a prolonged sailing voyage along the East Coast taken by front people Alaina Moore and Patrick Reilly, who didn’t consider themselves musicians prior to departing after graduating from college. The husband-and-wife duo, bursting with experience, emotion, and inspiration following the trip, felt the need to express themselves, so they decided to write and record the songs that would comprise Cape Dory — it was an album they couldn’t help but write. To compose a follow-up, they would have to come up with material the same way most bands do: without a particularly unique, life-changing experience to act as a muse.
In an interview with KEXP, Moore called the experience of writing songs for an intended audience rather than as a cathartic personal experience “liberating.” The album’s title, “Young and Old,” refers to the fact that though the band is growing older and being forced to deal with their own maturation, they are still, in a way, escaping the idea of maturation they had previously envisioned for themselves by touring and playing music for a living. The songs on the new album reflect this sentiment, but the thematic connection is far looser than that of Cape Dory.
Aside from subject matter, there is also the issue of expanding upon the more-or-less uniform sound of Cape Dory, and for this purpose they brought in Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney to produce the album. Carney’s contributions are readily apparent on the album’s first single “Origins,” which is full of abrasive effects and emphatic drumming that almost make it sound more like a Black Keys song than anything that resembles the airy nonchalance of Cape Dory. The rest of Young & Old falls somewhere in between. Most of the songs exhibit the same lulling breeziness that characterized Cape Dory, but move at a quicker, more concentrated pace, and feature more instrumental depth than the reedy, simplistic surf pop licks of their debut. “Origins” and “Traveling” are probably the best examples of the new, “heavier” side of Tennis, while “Robin” and “Never To Part” are more reminiscent of Cape Dory. The album’s standout track (by a wide margin, in my opinion), is “It All Feels The Same.” At first, it seems like it is bound to unfold like most other Tennis songs, which is to say without ever reaching a real climax. Eventually, however, it erupts with a thrilling amount of instrumental and vocal gusto that we have yet to see from the band. As the opening track, “It All Feels The Same” sets an exciting pace for an album in which Tennis take a few decided steps in a new direction, but, for the most part, retains the lilting low-key nature of Cape Dory.
“My Better Self”:
Young & Old will be released tomorrow, February 14, on Fat Possum. They will be playing at The Crocodile in Seattle on April 26.