Denver trio Tennis are more rocking and unmistakably Tennis-y than ever on their latest release, Ritual in Repeat, out September 9 via Communion. Ritual in Repeat is Tennis’ third studio album and their tightest effort to date, with tracks like “I’m Callin’” and “Never Work For Free” displaying lyrical and musical growth while preserving the band’s signature vintage sound.
Listen: “I’m Callin'” – Tennis
Tennis, originally started as a husband-and-wife indie pop duo in 2010, is comprised of Alaina Moore (vocals, keyboards), Patrick Riley (guitar) and James Barone (drums; not married). After working on 2013’s Small Sound EP with producer Richard Swift, Tennis teamed up once again with Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney in producing Ritual in Repeat. Carney also acted as producer on 2012’s Young & Old, and his influence certainly shows on the group’s developing sound.
Like Young & Old before it, Ritual in Repeat maintains a strong sonic identity across its eleven tracks. Moore’s vocals are much less distorted than in years past, which has as much to do with the album’s production as it does with cleaner song arrangements. Previous Tennis albums tended to treat the vocals on an equal plane with the other instruments: Moore was present, but not always in the forefront of the tune, and her words were often hard to discern as a result. Ritual in Repeat is the first Tennis album to really throw Moore into the spotlight and keep her there the whole time, and we couldn’t be more grateful. Moore’s vocals are especially showcased on songs like “I’m Callin’,”Never Work For Free,” “Bad Girls” and the acoustic folky ballad “Wounded Heart.” These songs provide ample space for Moore’s voice to breathe, and she takes the opportunity to sing as best she can, adding artful frills along the way but remaining humble all the while. Is it just me, or is she getting even better as a singer?
The ability to keep certain aural characteristics constant while diversifying individual songs is one of Tennis’ greatest strengths and biggest obstacles: While it helps develop the Tennis brand, it tends to hurt the band in creating really stand-out singles. Tennis seems to be learning how to clear that hurdle, however, as songs like the disco-influenced “I’m Callin'” and the intern anthem “Never Work For Free” are dreamy, indie, and above all else, memorable and catchy. “I’m Callin'” finds Moore petitioning with a series of “Hey”s in the chorus that are especially hard to forget. The song’s late-70s feel and dance groove make it an easy and deserving hit.
Hits aside, Ritual in Repeat is a solid work from a band who continues to remain true to themselves. Their songs are tales, their albums storybooks, and with each new release comes a more enhanced reading. Folks who listen through to the album’s end will find a special treat on “Meter & Line,” which features some unexpected but wonderful vocal treatments in the chorus. Could further musical experimentation (ala The Flaming Lips) be next on the Denver indie pop band’s agenda?
No matter what the future holds, we’re just glad to have another Tennis album to add to our collection. Thanks to Moore, Riley, Barone and everyone else involved for making that happen.
Listen: “Never Work For Free” – Tennis
For fans of: Best Coast, Beach House, Seapony, Vacationer
September 18 – St. Louis, MO – The Ready Room
September 19 – Louisville, KY – Headliners Music Hall
September 20 – Atlanta, GA – Terminal West
September 22 – Orlando, FL – The Social
September 24 – Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle
September 25 – Washington, DC – The Black Cat
September 26 – New York, NY – Webster Hall
September 27 – Northampton, MA – Pearl Street
September 29 – Cambridge, MA – The Sinclair
September 30 – Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts
October 2 – Montreal, Canada – La Vitrole
October 3 – Toronto, Canada – Virgin Mobile Mod Club
October 4 – Columbus, OH – A&R Music Bar
October 5 – Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
October 7 – Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line Music Cafe
October 17 – Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge
October 18 – Boise, ID – Knitting Factory
October 20 – Seattle, WA – Neumos
October 21 – Vancouver, Canada – Fortune Sound Club
October 22 – Portland, OR – Wonder Room
October 24 – San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall
October 25 – West Hollywood, CA – Troubadour
October 26 – San Diego, CA – The Casbah
October 29 – Phoenix, AZ – The Crescent Ballroom
November 1 – Austin, TX – Red 7
November 2 – Dallas, TX – The Loft
November 4 – Lawrence, KS – Granada Theater
November 5 – Omaha, NE – The Waiting Room
November 7 – Denver, CO – Bluebird Theater
Learn more about Tennis online at www.tennis-music.com