TENNIS: WE CAN DIE HAPPY
Independent pop pioneers Tennis released their second album of the year in the form of We Can Die Happy. Mixing influences like Buckingham Nicks era Stevie Nicks, Madonna, and the retro palette of eighties reverb, Tennis have created their own brand of modern pop music. This EP continues to build on this format while adding new flavors to the mix.
Tennis is husband and wife duo Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore that began after Riley ditched law school to sail across the Eastern Seaboard with Moore. The pair moved to Colorado soon after and recorded their first LP, Cape Dory, and added drummer, James Barone. Between then and 2015, the band didn’t stop, changing labels four times, touring heavily, and releasing two other full-length albums and an EP. Following this run, the band encountered some adversity with Barone leaving the group. Moore and Riley, searching for new inspiration, sailed the Western Seaboard in early 2016 and returned with some of their best work in Yours Conditionally, which they released on the label they created the same year called Mutually Detrimental. The album works to explore Moore’s take on being a woman in 2017 on “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar.” Moore laments, ‘I’m just a vehicle’ in “My Emotions Are Blinding.” The album was the band’s most critically and commercially successful, charting as high as number three on Billboard’s Alternative albums.
Eight months later, Tennis return with their sixth project and first EP since 2013. We Can Die Happy begins with the punchy, reverb drum sounds of the eighties on “No Exit.” The track was one of two singles released to promote the album (the other being “I Miss That Feeling”) and was originally intended for a short film titled True Blue, directed by friend of the band Chris Osborn. Moore describes the track as being intended for “a melancholy scene, darkly lit, which motivated me to write a dance song for depressive types who don’t get hyped up by ‘forever young’ ‘we can’t stop’ mantras. I’m never care free, even when I’m dancing, so I wrote lyrics to reflect that.” The album continues to explore themes of being uncomfortable and unsatisfied and coming to terms with these concerns, especially in “I Miss That Feeling.” The song eases the pace of the project, with a slow, dreamy vocal performance form Moore that would feel right at home in an eighties prom scene.
Perhaps the most inventive piece is found on “Diamond Rings.” Pseudo outlaw country inspired, vocal delay layered, and beautiful synths are held together by a familiar punchy drum machine to create a lively track about saloon love. Moore completes We Can Die Happy with “Building God.” The winding, drawn out guitar sounds like a revamped version of Mazzy Star’s So Tonight That I Might See. She compares a feigning love with political-religious morality with lyrics such as “We’re only building god until we have the one that we want” swooning “I can change, let me be what you need, it’s ok.”
Tennis continue to impress on We Can Die Happy. Despite a new-look lineup, the band continues to look forward.