Tennis’s ‘Young and Old’: Yet more superficial music

Tennis
Young and Old

Denver pop duo Tennis, composed of husband and wife Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, released their first record, “Cape Dory,” last year, an album inspired by the couple’s experience on a seven-month sailing excursion up the East Coast. It was an odd, patrician premise for an album suitably preoccupied with first-world concerns. No matter how deeply Moore and Riley considered all things nautical and natural (they met as philosophy students, after all) the greatest imponderable remained: Who has time for a seven-month sailing trip?

The duo’s new record, “Young and Old,” commences with “It All Feels the Same,” an apt descriptor for Tennis’s remarkably superficial music. “I took a train to find you,” sings Moore over a simple progression, suffused with the melancholy of one who discovers that the yacht is unavailable. Moore sings with a paint-by-numbers prettiness resembling Harriet Wheeler of the Sundays, or a chaste Stevie Nicks fresh from finishing school.

The irritatingly peppy, vaguely girl-group-inspired “Traveling” sounds like it was assembled from the spare parts of 100 commercially licensed songs. At best, this is music to shop to, if only to find something to replace it.

For “Young and Old,” Tennis has recruited Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney to produce, an unlikely pairing given that the bands could scarcely sound more dissimilar. Wrangling forcefully with a paucity of memorable material, Carney brings a modicum of attitude to tracks such as “Origins,” whose buzzing guitars and garage-rock organs are a relief amid the otherwise wispy proceedings. Overall, the record sounds fine: drums pop and crackle, keyboards wheeze by agreeably and backing vocals are dexterously arranged. But no amount of production acumen can invest Tennis’s banal wallpapering with anything like real meaning.

Timothy Bracy

Tennis’s' album “Young & Old.” (Courtesy of Fat Possum Records)

Recommended track

“Origins”

Tennis will perform at the Black Cat on March 7.

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