tennis – “no exit”

– featured image courtesy of luca venter –

tennis has already released one of the year’s strongest albums in yours conditionally, a masterful collection of pop songs that are alternately aching and searing; ahead of a rather extensive fall and winter tour that will stretch into 2018, the duo have unveiled “no exit,” a new, standalone track.

like much of their catalogue, “no exit” glimpses back at progenitors for sonic cues, this time culling from the dance music of yore.  although the song displays a marked increase in beats-per-minute, vocalist and keyboardist alaina moore refers to it as “a dance song for my inner nihilist.”

suffice it to say, “no exit” is still as lyrically potent as anything else in the tennis canon.  take a listen below.

best of 2014: albums

the end of our year-end best-of week is finally upon us, and we’ve saved the best for last: ten full-length albums of 2014 that best represent the musical convictions of dimestore saints.  in many cases, we’ve beaten these albums to death with accolades, so this list will be strictly visual.  as usual, the link embedded in the artist and album title will lead to a stream of said album, while clicking through each photo will lead to a review that accurately conveys our feelings.  by and large, the reviews will come from this site, but a couple will be pulled from other sites and writers that we admire.  cool?  cool.

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alvvays cover

10. alvvays – alvvays

sve are we there cover

9. sharon van etten – are we there

ritual in repeat cover

8. tennis – ritual in repeat

cloud nothings cover

7. cloud nothings – here and nowhere else

too bright cover

6. perfume genius – too bright

familiars cover

5. the antlers – familiars

caribou our love cover

4. caribou – our love

lost in the dream cover

3. the war on drugs – lost in the dream

fka twigs lp1 cover

2. fka twigs – lp1

three love songs cover

1. ricky eat acid – three love songs

tennis – ritual in repeat

the backstory of tennis and their debut album cape dory was portrayed as idyllic, something lifted from a script recently purchased by fox searchlight pictures: guy and girl marry, guy and girl sell all possessions to buy boat, guy and girl live on said boat, guy and girl return to denver to pen charming pop album, charming pop album is well-received, guy and girl become darlings of the blogosphere.  that’s not to say that the attention cape dory garnered was unwarranted in any way.  surf rock-inspired guitar melodies intertwined themselves with alaina moore’s vocals and keyboard progressions with ease, creating brief exercises in an amalgam of 1960s pop offshoots that resonated deeply with the music climate at the time.  but with a project that was ostensibly predicated on one profound, shared life experience, it became difficult not to wonder if tennis would eventually burn out or prove to be a passing fad.

after young & old hit less than a year later in early 2012, it became apparent that tennis wasn’t a fluke; that profound, shared life experience turned out to be a catalyst for an impeccable songwriting partnership as opposed to a one-time stroke of good fortune.  after a long bout of silence, tennis reappeared at the end of last year with small sound, an ep designed as a stop-gap before their much-anticipated, and delayed, third album arrived.

nine months later, we have ritual in repeat.  the album finds tennis again working with the black keys’ patrick carney along with the shins’ richard swift and spoon’s jim eno, both of whom handled production on small sound.  with this trio of producers in tow, moore and patrick riley have continued to distance themselves from the confines of their debut album, instead expanding their palate and honing in on new timbres to create their most mature – and important – effort to date.

a rather sunny disposition has been associated with tennis and their music, but ritual in repeat opens with “night vision,” a comparatively ominous track initially built around nothing more than a syncopated drum beat, moore’s descending vocal melody, and rumbling low-end interjections.  riley’s warm guitar countermelodies eventually foil the darker tones established, but “night vision” feels less like a misdirection and more of a precursor to the bevy of moods present throughout the album.  “bad girls” blurs the line between a self-examination and a cautionary tale of preconceived notions, with moore alternating between statements like “it’s true, i know, i’ll never find / i’ll never have any peace of mind ” and “even bad girls can do good things / even bad girls have holy dreams.”  instead of foiling the lyrical content, riley’s guitar work enhances it this time around, slinking dark arpeggios through appropriate passages and rolling chords at confident, stratospheric moments.

the lead singles plucked from ritual in repeat, “never work for free” and “i’m callin’,” both perfectly highlight the familiarity of tennis’ sound.  the former is uptempo, straight-ahead, and relies fundamentally on the vocal-guitar tandem of moore and riley, the very foundation of the band’s core, while the latter draws on the more recent funk and disco influences that permeated small sound.  tennis also smartly recycled “timothy” from their ep, thus broadening the album’s overall scope with an earnest, beachy song about unrequited love.  but yet, the shortest track on the album accomplishes the most in terms of the band’s maturation of sound.  “wounded heart” clocks in just under two minutes and is completely stripped of any tennis tropes; riley swaps his electric guitar for an acoustic to strum a simple waltz for moore, who sings a tender, threadbare melody about the solace found in confronting heartbreak.  with their signature aesthetic completely missing, tennis still proves that they can write meaningful, durable pop songs.

three albums in, tennis finally graduates to three-dimensional musicality and reaps all of the rewards in the process.  ritual in repeat is nearly flawless from start to finish, although it’s not so much a movement-defining moment as it is a career-defining one.  tennis has surpassed its buzz-band confines, leaving the door wide open for an endless possibility of musical endeavors.

8.7/10

listen to a new song from tennis

tennis is set to return with their long-awaited third album, ritual in repeat, on september 9th.  it’s the indie-pop outfit’s first full-length release since early 2012 and seems to follow in the footsteps of last year’s small sound ep, if the early singles are any indication.  the band dropped a second preview of their new record yesterday in the form of “i’m callin’,” an up-tempo, disco-beat powered number that demands your complete attention.  take a listen to the song below, courtesy of the band’s soundcloud page.

listen to a new song from tennis

the word around the water cooler yesterday was tennis’ impending third album, ritual in repeat, due out september 9th via communion records.  the new album has an entire slew of well-known producers, including jim eno and patrick carney, and already comes armed with a strong lead single, “never work for free.”  still closely riding the heels of last year’s small sound ep, tennis is poised impressed yet again.  check out “never work for free” below, courtesy of the band’s soundcloud page.

most anticipated albums of 2014

2013 has provided a wealth of new music and incredibly important albums for a multitude of genres, but as i reflect on the year’s best offerings i can’t help but to peak ahead and see what 2014 potentially has in store.  here’s my short list of bands i’m excited to hear a new album from.

adelyn rose – i guess it’s been less than two years since mezzanine, but it feels like i’ve been waiting on a new adelyn rose record forever.  the eau claire outfit has been holed up at justin vernon’s april base for the latter half of this year, perfecting a new batch of tracks.  i’ve heard a couple at various live shows, but i’m excited to finally hear another finished project from addie and company.

cloud nothings – remember when cloud nothings was on both editions of my “most anticipated” lists this year?  oops.  the good news is that the now-power trio posted a short video of them working on new songs in the studio, hinting that dylan baldi will probably dominate my headphones again in 2014.  bring it, dude.

foxes in fiction – warren hildebrand enlisted owen pallett to write the string parts for his new album, so i have to hope that the end result will be good.  the new york by way of toronto ambient act has had my attention for sometime, and i’m excited to hear a long-overdue full length album from him.  the thing could drop tomorrow or in six months; i like a project that keeps me on my toes.

gem club – the boston chamber pop trio’s sophomore album in roses is due out january 28th on hardly art records.  if you’ve heard the gorgeous lead single “polly,” you’ll know why i’m looking forward to this record.  if you haven’t, head over to their soundcloud and fix that problem.

 

memoryhouse – memoryhouse played some new songs on npr’s world cafe last month and prefaced them with the announcement that their sophomore album will be out sometime in the spring.  i’m always game to see what those two have to offer.

pillar point – i can’t tell you what got me hooked on pillar point, but i can tell you that scott reitherman’s moody synth-pop gave me an entirely new appreciation for the genre.  after a strong showing on his debut 7″ single “diamond mine” b/w “dreamin’,” reitherman stepped out of anonymity and announced the release of his self-titled debut full length album, out february 25th via polyvinyl.  if that wasn’t enough, he offered up another single, “eyeballs,” which might just be his best work yet.

 

tenement – get to know tenement.  i’ve been following them since they used to play dingy basements and coffee houses around central and eastern wisconsin when i was in high school, but now they’ve signed to don giovanni records and are prepping their first release for that label sometime next year.

tennis – the small sound ep may have served as a filler in between tennis’ second and third album, but it also hopefully forecasted the continuation of sharp songwriting and irresistible pop hooks i’ve come to expect from the band.

vancouver sleep clinic – my favorite new artist of 2013 hasn’t even released a full body of work yet.  in fact, seventeen year-old tim bettinson has only announced an ep for vancouver sleep clinic, due out early next year, but that’s enough for me.  both “collapse” and “vapour” highlighted his skill as a songwriter and his ability to evoke entire landscapes through three or four minutes of song.

 

wye oak – a recent feature over at spin revealed that wye oak is working on their fourth album, and that it will be totally different than their previous output.  guitars have been swapped for bass guitars, and the keyboard pads will be replaced with more melodic lines.  no word on a title or release date, but look for it sometime next year via merge records.

tennis – small sound

at their inception, tennis seemed to be everywhere all at once.  the denver indie-pop trio, centered around husband and wife tandem patrick riley and alaina moore, quickly churned out two excellent full-length albums over the span of about a year.  but then they clammed up.  aside from an excellent cover of television’s “guiding light,” let go around last christmas, the band was holed up somewhere writing new material and largely avoiding contact with the outside world.  the result of this hermitic behavior is small sound, an excellent five-song ep that serves as a precursor to a third album due sometime in the near future.

“mean streets,” the ep’s opening track and lead single, feels like a throwback to something that would have been written in between cape dory and young & oldthe nautical-romance aesthetic reappears, but it’s supplemented by the more conscientious songwriting that permeated tennis’ second album.  the subsequent song, “timothy,” throws the car even further in reverse.  the jangly guitar intro sets up a drum beat and vocal line that may just be the band’s most delightful ever.  it’s completely reminiscent of the innocent love that spawned cape dory, yet the sheer length of the song and its fully-developed bridge suggest that tennis is adding mature nuances to a familiar palate.

 

maybe that’s why the rest of small sound surprises me so much.  after hinting that they wouldn’t step too far outside their comfort zone with the first two tracks, tennis gets funky on “cured of youth.”  like syncopated horn-line funky.  if the sounds of mid-1960s pop was their calling card before, tennis begins to embrace more attributes of the latter part of that decade throughout small sound.  “dimming light” is a slow-burning, r&b-laced song with an assertive vocal hook on the chorus accompanied by an acoustic piano, while closing number “100 lovers” dials up a bit of funk one more time.

considering i wasn’t expecting anything from tennis until 2014, small sound is a pleasant surprise.  hopefully this foray into uncharted waters isn’t a one-off experiment, because i’d love to hear more of it on their next full-length.  for now, i’ll just sit back and wait for my 10″ of small sound to come in the mail, and then spin it a bunch of times in a row because it’s that good.

8.1/10

listen to a new song from tennis

it’s been over a year and a half since tennis’ sophomore album young & old, but the husband and wife duo will be back with a new ep on november 5th.  small sound is the result of the band’s relocation to nashville and work with producer richard swift; although the ep is more than a month away, you can listen to “mean streets,” a great laid-back cut, below courtesy of the band’s soundcloud page.