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Tennis Anyone?

December 2nd, 2010

Tennis – Mercury Lounge – December 1, 2010

Tennis - Mercury Lounge - December 1, 2010
With just a solitary 7″ single on Underwater Peoples Records, Tennis has already made a name for itself, headlining last night at Mercury Lounge. But how did two people who met just a short time ago leave everything behind to buy a sailboat and travel for almost a year and then end up here? Maybe it’s the mythology of the husband-and-wife duo Patrick Riley and Alaina Moor venturing out on the open sea and coming back with these songs that got the sold-out crowd’s attention—or more likely it’s that the sound born on that trip is exactly like you’d imagine: equal parts dreamy shoegaze and echo surf pop.

Riley, looking like he’d just stepped off deck, with his bleached-blond hair and polo shirt, cranked the warm, delayed reverb borrowing from the wet-amp settings of Dick Dale. Moor played synth and sang in a fragile vibrato, with an inherent optimism about the journey, from the coves and tides in “Marathon” to the squalls and lees in “South Carolina.” The nearly conceptual album, Cape Dory, which hits stores next month, is inspired by their idiosyncratic nautical observations.

There are clear comparisons to another female-fronted indie band, Beach House, with similar haunting lead vocals and swirling fuzz. But in Tennis’ case, thanks to the couple’s carefree open-ocean lifestyle, the tracks have a decidedly sunny outlook. It’s pure homage to classic oldies radio, and fitting that their debut was pressed as a 45, right in line with the recent pillaging and rediscovery of those ’60s girl groups and that Top 40 sound. Turns out, it was an ill-fated set of near disasters at sea one night that led Riley and Moor to shore for a drink at a seaside bar to hear, of all things, the Ronettes on the jukebox. Little by little, the couple bought back the instruments they had sold for the trip and combined that sound with an epic odyssey. And the rest is barely history. —Jason Dean

Photos courtesy of Diana Wong | dianawongphoto.blogspot.com

(Tennis and School of Seven Bells open for the Walkmen tonight at Terminal 5.)