Tennis take to the sea once again for their new album, Yours Conditionally.Mutually Detrimental via Thirty Tigers, 2017
7.4 / 10
Like any prominent origin story, it proves hard for artists to separate from them. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon is forever synonymous with cabin in the woods. And Tennis, the husband-and-wife duo of Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, conjure the mental image of a boat at sea rather than two people playing tennis. Need I fill you in…again? Okay, I won’t. However, the duo’s nautical adventures are relevant again for their fourth album, Yours Conditionally. Riley and Moore set sail on a five-month trip to inspire their new album. Unlike their debut, Cape Dory, this seafaring release isn’t bad. Instead, Tennis continue the progression of their last record, Ritual In Repeat.
Yours Conditionally is no twist on the Tennis formula. The songs still maintain their pleasant pop architecture that border on retro. While Tennis’s influences seemingly stem from the ’60s, Alaina Moore’s voice now reflects the ’80s era dance pop era. Still, nothing on Yours Conditionally ever feels very dance-centric. “Matrimony” comes close with its twinkly synths and snappy percussion, but it’s down-tempo disco that wants you to sway rather than thrust your hips. Come to think of it, “thrustless” is a good description of Tennis’s music all together. It’s more about emotional intimacy than physical.
While we may never hear Tennis really cut loose, they really progress in their songwriting. Sure, the sugary sentiments of the duo’s past records are still present, but Moore’s lyrics are more topical. She particularly highlights her views as a self-professed feminist. In “My Emotions Are Blinding”, she tackles sexism but goes after it with wit rather than aggression. The pours on a funky cool vibe that builds perfectly to a handclapping chorus. Then there’s the single, “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar”, that addresses sexism in the music industry. Bleached also touched on this topic in their recent EP Can You Deal?
“Modern Woman” could be the album’s best song, as it focuses on an estranged friendship and Moore’s relationships with other women in general. The estranged friend in the song is known as Kate. Though the reason for the fallout is never revealed, there’s a sense that it will not be resolved. “I think I might have made it real/ I think I might have made it so real,” Moore sings as if she feels blame for the strife. The music strays from Tennis’s normal cheery disposition for something more akin to Sharon Van Etten or Angel Olsen. Comparisons to those musicians reflects just how far the duo has come.