Review: Tennis – Cape Dory

Denver’s Tennis (husband and wife Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore) released their debut album Cape Dory two weeks ago and it’s fair to say I’ve played it quite a few times since I picked it up. It’s come off the back of a big year for them, getting an awful lot of internet exposure and a couple of EP releases over the summer. Anyway, here’s what I think.

The album starts with the up-tempo ‘Take Me Somewhere’, showcasing the 50’s guitar and ambient surf sound that has become synonymous with bands such as Tennis, Beach House, The Drums and How To Dress Well over the last twelve months or so. The third song, ‘Cape Dory’ is an early delight; the vocal melody is unusual enough to be remarked upon and the backing is wonderfully lo-fi. I’ve been trying to place what Alaina Moore’s voice sounds like and I think I may have placed it. A little while ago I put up a song by a Sheffield band called Jack Rabbit and their lead singer, Olivia Neller, has a very similar tone. There, that’s one mystery solved! (If you want to listen to them, click here.)

This is followed by ‘Marathon’, a busy wall of mids and treble that only lasts 2:46. It could be longer as it leaves you wanting much more of the simple happiness that the song espouses. Short and sweet is the way this album goes though; it clocks in at under half an hour long and, while this makes it a very easy listen, some of the songs do feel like they disappear a little. It’s an album that wants listening to a couple of times before passing judgement. Luckily, this is easily done!

‘Bimini Bay’ is the fifth song on the album and in contrast to the four preceding songs it is much more down tempo. If ‘Marathon’ is a song that makes you get up and jive, this is one you slow dance to. It is still infectiously surf-y and dreamy though. Once again the saccharine vocals shine on this track.

In my opinion the middle of the album marks something of a dip. I realise that to have all ten songs being as happy and upbeat as the openers would probably get annoying (nobody wants to be too happy), but it feels like the songs in the middle could be spread out more. ‘Seafarer’ marks the return of the cheerfulness and you’ll hear similarities to the band She & Him, both in the singing and the folksy rhythm. It’s just lacking M. Ward’s gruff voice in the background. This is followed by the lead single off the album, ‘Baltimore’, a song with a great bassline that just about pokes it’s head above the trebly guitar. Next is the final song on the album (yup, that soon!) and it finishes on a suitably reflective note.

Alaina’s voice is delightful the whole way through the album; at times I think she carries the songs. On the whole it is a solid effort that builds on what they’ve been doing over the last 8 months. Happy, 50’s High School dance stuff that leaves you feeling sugar coated by the end of it. It definitely won’t be for everyone… And if you’re in a bad mood I would recommend looking elsewhere. If, however, you fancy sitting back and being transported back to your summer holiday or that school disco where you got your first kiss (in between ‘Who Let The Dogs Out? and Steps) then this fits the bill.

Buy the album here.

Listen to: Marathon [Right-click to download]

File next to: the other dream- and surf-pop albums that have come out, but also happy shoegaze and lo-fi. And some Buddy Holly for good measure.

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