Wednesday, January 26

Record Review: Tennis [Cape Dory, Fat Possum Records]

by Sebastian Ruan

Cape Dory is if anything, sexy. It may not be thrilling from start to finish, but it is pleasantly positive and subtly sensual. Tennis, aka Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, were inspired by their travels in the Atlantic, according to an interview they did with NPR. It was afterthought that this record ever came to be; their background in music jump-started them into creating an album composed of songs about sailing, docking and other ocean-esque activities, all the while growing together as a couple, and more importantly for us music lovers, as a band.

It took me a couple listens to finally grasp the duo’s unusual creativity, which is instantly likable and undoubtedly accessible. Their sound, a mixture of 60’s doo-wop and indie rock, has many facets, including the angelic and oh-ew-ew-oh-heavy voice of Alaina Moore, or the infectious guitar strumming. Though it seems odd releasing such a summer-perfect album in the dead of winter, we here in San Francisco don’t mind since the sun seems to be turning the office into a sauna, making this album a subtle encouragement to slap on some trunks and hit the beaches.

 The tracks, albeit quite short, linger on the tip of the tongue. Each is given its own hummed melody you unavoidably cannot help but belt out in the shower. Some of my favorite moments come when one song’s melody, either sung or strummed, bleeds into the next song. This is especially prevalent in “Long Boat Pass”: its outro’s feverish guitar riff is slowed down on the next track, “Cape Dory”. The title track then transforms into an angst-y light rock tune, painting an Circe-style island of conch shells and ocean swells. Moore’s expertly crafted harmonization on “South Carolina” really brings out the 60’s sound, especially with a line like “South Carolina really makes a man / if the South can’t do it, then no one can.” Lyrics like this comprise most of the album’s verses, in which you hear Moore fall more and more in love with her shipmate. The climax, of course being the moment on the final track, “Waterbirds” when she sings “When you kiss me / you really kiss me. / Tell me how-ow-ew-ow / you can resist me” just before those symbols start crashing, and the guitar lets loose. Moments with that much flourished feeling hardly ever come out sounding as pure as this duo made it out to be.

Nothing brings a young couple together quite like the ocean, partly because they are stuck on the same boat, and partly because of the dangers of the heavy seas. And the songs, each a new chapter in their adventures, artfully captures such moments of fear and love. Moore and Riley’s travels not only bred one of this winter’s most addicting sixties-record-not-of-the-sixties as far as melody and chord structure (and that indelible bass riff on “Baltimore”) go, but it has also generated such a unique storyline that threads throughout the album. I just hope their inspiration does not end there.

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