This review was originally published at Listen Before You Buy.
I’m going to be honest, I listened to this record six full times through and remained unimpressed. I felt disconnected from the music and didn’t have that same special feeling that their first record, “Cape Dory” had given me. Then suddenly, and this does happen sometimes, on the seventh listen through it was as if a trapdoor had opened and I was falling and falling for this record. I find it so strange when this happens with records, just imagine if I had given up? Just left the record for dead? Then I would be missing out on a lovely, lilting gem of an album that crescendos and crashes like a wave upon a shore.
The sophomore release from Fat Possum’s Tennis was much anticipated, and “Young & Old” certainly reflects a lot of the same facets that made “Cape Dory” enjoyable. Namely, the combination of the couple’s simple strengths. Alaina Moore’s deliciously delightful voice, like an ice cream sundae for your ears, and Patrick Riley creating this 60s/70s sounding vintage pop vibe now fleshed out with drummer James Barone. Another element that really sets “Young & Old” apart from the band’s initial album is the production help of Patrick Carney from The Black Keys. Clearly he knows his stuff as this sophomore effort isn’t just the lilting, languishing sea-bound journey that “Cape Dory” was, but is a record actually sets foot on land and starts evolving right in front of you. If my initial disinterest in the record taught me anything about this release, it is that the music contained within is much more complex, layered, and thought-out than a cursory listen reveals.
Deceptively simple, there is a lot going on below the surface. Not so much a fever dream as a slightly dolorous musing, the record is like listening to a loved one sigh, or if a lazy, sunny afternoon was translated into sound, it would be this album. “If I don’t use words / Then each sound goes unheard” Moore sings on ‘My Better Self’, which is only partially true in this case as the drums and piano on this song are too precise and pretty to go unheard. But the subtlety of thought in that phrase certainly doesn’t go unheard, and this type of lyrical enigma is heard looped throughout the album, as on ‘Petition’ when she sings “Misinform the life I know / On my banner censors show”. I use these examples to indicate that though the sound of Tennis might be likened to crystalline pop a bit more than they deserve, their lyrics are certainly much more thought out than those of Katy Perry or Robyn (Oh yeah, and they weren’t written for her by a ghost writer).
Final element to note on this record, the beautiful dose of organ music that appears at just the right moment. My favorite song on the release ‘Take Me To Heaven’ contains a liberal dose, and also reaches a loud, insistent crescendo that many of the other songs avoid, as Moore reveals that her voice is oh-so-sweet, but she also has chops. Please listen to this record, it nearly makes me cry to think I could’ve missed it by not paying close enough attention or not giving it enough of a chance.