If there is a lesson to be learned from the band Tennis, perhaps it is that sometimes inspiration doesn’t come to those who wait — sometimes inspiration is something you have to seek out for yourself. As has been well documented in Tennis’ lore, the married couple-turned-band took to the high seas for seven months on a boat to make their debut album, Cape Dory. That was over six years ago, though, and two albums later, Tennis decided it was time to see if they could strike gold yet again by setting sail to the Sea of Cortez to finish their fourth LP. Going to this extreme to seek out creative inspiration seems to have paid off though, since Tennis has come back from their time on the ocean having solidified the 10 tracks of delightful, soulful pop that comprise Yours Conditionally.
The other lesson one might learn from Tennis is that sometimes it takes a while to find yourself. The band have always bore their 1970s pop influences loud and proud, but the execution of this style has been largely hit-or-miss. Take, for example, the first track off their debut, “Take Me Somewhere
Four albums in, Tennis have developed a sense of balance that keeps them from grabbing at too many different sounds; a refinement that helps them stand out from their peers in the crowded indie pop landscape. They certainly sound more in their element now that that they’re chugging along in a single direction rather than splashing around. The synths from 2014’s Ritual in Repeat have largely been replaced by stripped back bass grooves, as seen on “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar” — a sarcastic feminist statement about being the source of a man’s creative inspiration. While getting into deeper lyrical themes, Moore also seems to be more comfortable exploring the deeper registers of her voice, which complements the warmer sound of tracks like “Baby Don’t Believe“.
Yours Conditionally is another promising step forward for Tennis. It shows a willingness to move past the shores and into deeper water where there’s more room to explore and grow. Its biggest downfall may perhaps be its singular focus, but repeated listens highlight all the lovely moments of subtle variety throughout. Tennis have crafted an album that elevates their sound from assuredly cute to quietly beautiful and is proof that not every indie standout is built overnight — sometimes it takes a journey.
RiYL: Real Estate, Cults, The Carpenters, Minnie Riperton
RT: “Fields of Blue”, “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar”, “Baby Don’t Believe”, “Island Music”