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Tennis: Young and Old
An almost accidental band, Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley – married couple and original members of Tennis – found their knack for making music after taking a seven-month long sailing trip that inspired them to keep record of it with song. Last year’s album Cape Dory caught a lot of attention with its happy, distinct 60s pop sound infused with pure indie motifs. Gaining popularity with the first album largely via the Internet, Tennis’ second album Young and Old may not as easily be a hit.
The band, made up of Moore (voice and keyboards), Riley (bass and guitar) and James Barone (drums) collaborated with Patrick Carney of The Black Keys to produce the second album. Though the overall sound is very similar to its predecessor, Young and Old certainly speaks the effects of this newfound union as well.
Keeping within the overall easy going, beach-pop sound that ensured their initial success, the band’s follow-up album is inlayed with a lot more texture and depth. Piano chords played in a staccato style introduce ‘Origins’ with much the same effect of the bluesy rock heard in The Black Keys’ music. ‘My Better Self’ speaks a similar language, contrasting well with the feather-like voice of Moore and the background oohs and ahhs that could easily belong in a Californian daydream. ‘Petition’ carries the same weight in beat but is easily the furthest away from their original sound. It is here that Moore’s singing of the lyrics ‘Misinform the life all know/On my banner censor shows’ is considerably cheesy and loses everything we loved about this band to begin with; the song lacks the nostalgic feel that their music tends to give through quickened beats and airy riffs and is also missing the charm Moore usually carries.
The light-hearted beats reminiscent of the Beach Boys which spoke much of the first album’s sound are relocated in ‘Traveling’ and ‘Robin’ along with the band’s lo-fi indie persona. Moore’s declaration of ‘There’s nothing left for me’ in ‘Take Me to Heaven’ is the most defeatist we’ve heard her– a song that is more solemn yet equally representative of pop. The closing track is pretty much more of the same, and that is essentially this album’s downfall – there isn’t enough distinction between the songs, or even between it and the previous album; it all ends up sounds like a big mush of doo wops and 60s pop beats, highlighted with Moore’s girly voice – which of course isn’t a terrible thing, not at all. However, it feels like Tennis fell a bit short, as the title of first track hints to us ‘It All Feels The Same’.
In eleven songs, they built a unique sound that you couldn't quite put your finger on: slow beats dressed in austerity, accompanied by enigmatic lyrics and lone wondering guitars. With a Mercury music prize under their belt and almost every music critic at their feet, they started work on their sophomore album.
But overall, this album is much less introverted. Both Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim seem to have gained confidence as singers and hone their vocal skills with more conviction then they did on their debut album.
Beatmaster Jamie xx, having built a very solid reputation as a producer in between the creation of the two albums, also steps closer to the limelight on this record. Even more songs than on the debut album are built on beats instead of a guitar riff and those beats are slightly more experimental than they previously were. There is even some steel drum - certainly not the hippest of instruments - seeping through in ‘Reunion’.
Ever since the 2012 release of their double a-side single, ‘Flying To Berlin/Husbands’, Savages have occupied an interesting space in the musical spectrums. With a mixture of old school post-punk and noise rock, they appear to be the perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans. Their frenetic, dark, and sinisterly beautiful style has been receiving rave reviews the world over from critics and fans alike and their latest EP Adore Life is more of the same.
This is an album about love, but one would hesitate to call any of the tracks traditional love songs. Instead of falling into classic song writing tropes about how amazing love is, Savages instead approach the subject matter from a much darker perspective. This is an album about the true power of love, nd how that isn’t always a good thing.
The opening track, ‘The Answer’, heaves with energy from the get go, telling the story of an almost obsessive infatuation, with frontwoman Jehnny Beth (real name Camille Berthomier) repeating the words “If you don't love me/You don't love anybody” throughout the song just to drive home the fact that love can be a dangerous force. The hectic instrumentation provides a binary opposition to Beth’s sweet tones and is the perfect start to the record.
That is not to say that Adore Life is unrelenting in its aggression. This album is a mixture of forceful distortion, British post-punk and torch songs, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the song ‘Adore’. It’s slow, it’s bassy, it’s reverby (is that even a word?) it’s dark, but above all, beautiful. Concluding with a lyrical coda accompanied by a slow crescendo, it sounds like something you would hear in a smoky Paris café at 3AM. Make no mistakes, this is an early contender for one of the best songs of 2016.
Even towards the end of the album, they manage to keep the energy up. The penultimate track, ‘T.I.W.YG’, is almost a sequel to ‘The Answer’ in terms of style and narrative. The instrumentation provides an organised cacophony to truly drive home the fact that, this is what you get when you mess with love.
For what is only a second album, Adore Life shows a surprising maturity from the London-based female foursome. The lyrics are emotive without being contrived, the instrumentation is varied without being schizophrenic and the style is classic without being clichéd. This is more neo-post punk as opposed to post-punk revival and thank god it is, because the last thing we need is another attempt to revive a past genre. Remember the comment about the band being perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans? This album hits the nail on the head, being equal parts a love song to the past and an ode to the fuzzy future.