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Tennis - Young & Old LP


Fat Possum Records

After their first album and the story behind it, Tennis weren't going to have an easy time with the follow-up. How do you compete with a record that came out of nowhere and knocked people out with its lovely, lo-fi-sounding '50s pop and the romantic back-story of how all the songs were written on a months-long boat excursion at sea? The easy answer is that you don't. The duo of Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley decided to keep the core sound intact on Young & Old but expand it a bit, adding drummer James Barone to the band full-time and hitting the studio with Black Key Patrick Carney behind the board. The result is a record that sounds a whole bunch like Cape Dory but with a crisper, less bedroom sound that strips away most the gauzy reverb and lets the instruments breathe a little more, especially the piano and drums. It's enough of a shift in perspective and approach to stave of any accusations of sticking too closely to their formula, but it's not enough of one to scare off anyone but the hardest of the hardcore reverb fanatics. Now you can really absorb how good and unique Moore's vocals are; she sounds less affected this time out and invests the songs with more insistent emotional content. The whole album takes that tack as well, feeling much more immediate and powerful. Some may miss the mystery of Cape Dory, but there's enough intrigue and drama left to make Young & Old exciting, even a little thrilling at times. Much of the album has a punch and power that Cape never had and the ratio of hits to misses is impressively high, hovering right around 100 percent hits. Almost every song would be a mixtape highlight and surprisingly, given how atmospheric Cape Dory was, songs like "High Road," with its Northern soul bounce and handclaps, and "Traveling" wouldn't be out of place at an indie disco. Even the (rare) ballads, like the lilting "My Better Self" and "Origins," have more rhythmic intensity this time. Young & Old won't make you forget Cape Dory, but it's an impressive flip side to Tennis and shows they aren't a one-trick pony. If next time out they figure out how to blend the dreamy romance of the first record and the uptempo pop charm of this one, you might be looking at something pretty amazing. As it is, though, Tennis are making some of the best pop music around in 2012, and that's plenty good enough.