Carved as a natural synthesis of old school rock elements shaped into a radio hit with important little hidden treasures.
Tennis – Ritual in Repeat
Everything’s a remix. Consequently, there’s a comfortable aftertaste that lingers when a band can admit to wearing their influences on their sleeves. It’s a tricky, meandering road that can lead to either drowning in one’s influences or accepting the idea that we are all students of popular culture. Tennis, a husband and wife ensemble realizes that everything we create is a fusion of the past and current trends.
The album art of their latest project Ritual in Repeat takes a sharp turn with its personification of the disruptive forces that comes with comfort and uniformity. The album cover features a face that’s missing eyes, nose and all the psychological structures upon which our senses are built. Missing everything that helps shape identity. After two albums and one EP the band understandably found themselves sinking in a monotonous cycle. To break their rituals, Tennis enlisted the help of Patrick Carney of the Black Keys, Jim Eno of Spoon, and Richard Swift of the Shins. Ritual in Repeat marks on the state of being in a cloudy place, existing without one’s true identity. The album ushers in strong ideals about love, entitlement, public persona, dreams, triumph and tribulations. Tennis sails into their third album quite confidently by remixing old nostalgic sounds to create a sonically engaging experience that is both physical and endearing.
On this new LP, Tennis manages not to abandon their signature glossy and high rolling sounds. What happens differently, is the noticeable change in thematic arc. Track after track, Tennis recreates important social commentary by carefully fusing songs together into a smooth thesis. More importantly, the songs are disguised and hidden behind colorful instrumentals inspired by different decades. Ultimately, it enables us to listen, think, and then feel. Tennis gets real deep. The stories and lyrics are accentuated by interesting moments of social commentary. There are so many tracks worth re-listening to for the sole purpose of dissection and analysis.
Disco sensibilities drum up playful thumping, as Alaina Moore allows her vocals to fly freely on the track “Never Work For Free”. The line “I can’t give up what never belonged to me” is a commentary on the sense of entitlement that people feel when pursuing their dreams or love. The track drives home the sentiment that only through hard work and not entitlement do people actually succeed. Tennis delivers some more bouncy and thoughtful tracks. At the middle of the track-list is the song, “Bad Girls” which is inspired the by the 90’s gospel revivalist movement. The reborn aura is complemented by what sounds like a faint organ piano in the background. This song explores the young scarlet culture in hollywood and the good girl/bad girl labels. “Needle and a Knife” has lovely elements of 80’s funk and 60’s grooves complete with a strong message of empowered single women. The visual makeup of this album produces catchy and sticky tasty treats.
The last half of the album, packs less punch but is stripped back enough to feel nicely intimate. Equal rotation of sounds that borrow from different decades give the record a refreshing angle whether or not a track is stripped back or grander. “Viv Without the N” is a harmonizing gem, while “Wounded Heart” is a somber moment that leaves lasting feeling. From the track “This Isn’t My Song” until the last song “Meter & Line”, Tennis rides on a nice soft path. By trading their old their rituals for more bolder messages the duo comes out sounding more vivid. There’s an enjoyable balance between sounding great and having interesting lyrical content. Ritual in Repeat is carved as a natural synthesis of old school rock elements shaped into a radio hit with important little hidden treasures.