Husband-and-Wife Duo Craft Sunny Indie-Pop on the Open Seas

Tennis
Cape Dory
Fat Possum

Whether it’s four dapper Columbia grads, a bearded loner in a Wisconsin cabin or the grown-up product of a cult, indie rock has always loved a weird backstory. And Denver husband-wife duo Tennis more than fit the bill.

Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore met in college, got married and spent seven months or so sailing along the Eastern seaboard together. With no way to play music at sea, they started writing songs to soundtrack their voyage. Once back on solid ground, they collected these songs as their debut LP.

It’s almost too cute to be true, and we wouldn’t be surprised if Riley and Moore’s story served as a cover-up for mediocre music. But on Cape Dory, Tennis blows those suspicions out of the water, treating the listener to 10 tracks of breezy, well-crafted pop music.

While some of their peers look to hazy ’70s folk (Woods, Real Estate) or fuzzed-out psych rock (Ty Segall, the Soft Pack) for inspiration, Tennis tend more toward ’60s pop. “Marathon,” the album’s best track, bears a striking resemblance to
early Serge Gainsbourg, while “Pigeon,” another standout, comes off as a cross between the Walkmen and Dusty Springfield.

Though many of the songs here are, predictably, about sailing (titles include “Bimini Bay” and “Long Boat Pass”), the lyrics are more concerned with love, specifically the unique bond formed between two people during extended periods of isolation. Moore peppers her lyrics with statements like “Coconut Grove is a very small cove / Separated from the sea by a shifting shoal,” but she’s more convincing when she’s serenading her lover (“I’ll be holding you tight / Let you sleep through the night / Let the wind blow / We will be safe, I know”).

Critics have expressed concern that, now having depleted their stock of cutesy sailing stories, the pair might run out of material. But despite the topicality of their work (hey, they’re still on a boat), Riley and Moore prove on Cape Dory that they haven’t lost steam just yet. (8/10)

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