Tennis - Yours Conditionally

by Jason Atkinson Rating:7 Release Date:2017-03-10

There is no denying it -- "Yours Conditionally," the new album from Tennis, sounds very professional. Listening to it, you get the feeling that the best people were hired to engineer, mix, master, record, promote, and provide 70's kitsch imagery for this work. Alaina Moore, the lead vocalist, shows off competency and great skill as the centrepiece/Lionheart of the entire production. "Women are much closer to nature," she proclaims on the second track "My Emotions are Blinding." Co-band mate, husband, and guitarist Patrick Riley knows what to do: perform tasteful background work, wear acid-washed denim, and pretty much get the hell out of the way. He is, after all, further from nature, and, if Alaina is writing the lyrics, he is also dealing with a powerful woman who alternately feels elated and disenchanted with her current predicament.

It is written far and wide that the husband/wife team of Tennis enjoys sailing. As NPR and other mainstream media outlets tell it, they glean much of their material from extended jaunts at sea. Here, they commune with various marine life and other aquatic-goings-on, only coming back ashore when they have enough tracks for a new album. This idea of sailor/songwriter has proven so popular that retail giant Urban Outfitters chronicled the most recent Tennis journey-at-sea on their online blog. "Yours Conditionally" is their fourth album, so these two know their way around a schooner.

It's all very cute and harmless.

Or is it...

All this media attention has made for a fascinating collection of songs. At times, "Yours Conditionally," sounds like it was made to hum in the background—maybe play in a store called, I don't know, Urban Outfitters. At other times, however, there is a stress and discomfort, mostly voiced by Alaina Moore. This dichotomy, of course, is not necessarily a bad thing, but one gets the feeling that Tennis fights between what is expected of them (cute husband and wife duo who boat and sing) and what they want (whatever that is).

The songs are awash in a fair amount of this ambivalence. The first cut, for instance, “In the Morning I'll be Better” is one of the strongest, with bluesy vocals and beautiful background-voice layering. A Rhodes piano pops out a little beat in the background. “My Emotions are Blinding,” continues in this vein, with a memorable guitar hook. “Fields of Blue,” meanwhile, is a pure pop confection that would work well at an Urban Outfitters while a t-shirt is purchased.

Things take a darker turn at “Ladies Don't Play Guitar,” a neo-soul-indie-rock track that deals with the difficulties associated with long-term relationships. Then, there's “Matrimony,” which seems to be about Tennis and their remarkable relationship that is just so gosh-darn awesome. But wait--is it? “I'll wear the dress my sister made/And the blunt haircut your dull scissors gave me,” Alaina Moore sings. A lovely picture, indeed, but is she thrilled with that blunt haircut, or being stuck on this damn boat, or even with this whole "Tennis" thing? Who knows. Afterwards, the album bottoms out with increasingly mellow tracks before we come to the reverb-washed “Island Music,” my personal favourite. “Why can't I cry..../baby, I'm unmoved by you/Unmoved.” Hmmm--sounds like there is trouble in paradise. 

Press a few buttons on your iPhone and give them a listen.

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