“We haven’t really toured in a few years, and I was afraid that when we came back out no one would be left to see us. I’m so very glad I was wrong, and happy that you all came out,” said Alaina Moore, lead singer and keyboardist of the chill rocking husband-and-wife duo from Denver who go by the name Tennis. Thankfully, she was so very wrong in her worry. In fact, the band seems to be more popular than ever after selling out two consecutive shows, of which this was the first night, at Bowery Ballroom for their tour finale, coupled with having the makings of a big hit with their new disc Yours Conditionally. I initially got to know Tennis rather well when I was spending a lot of time in Denver back around 2011/12, which was a time when they were just beginning to get super popular there. I certainly saw they had major potential even back then. However, several years and a few LPs later, they have definitely not lost their super laid back groove. This album marks their first release since Ritual in Repeat in 2014. Spoon’s Jim Eno, who produced that last album, has returned again, but this time solely as the sound mixer, as Tennis decided to take on that duty themselves this time. Many people have remarked that they sound like they were cut out of the late 70’s scene. To be sure, they do have a certain organ and disco groove appeal, but I find their appeal to be less retro and much more rooted in their angelic harmonies, autumnal melodies, and that pristinely echoed reverb of duo partner Patrick Riley’s rich guitar sound. In more present day terms, it’s as though Angel Olsen had a bit of a shoegaze phase, and decided to ditch the gloom and sing sunny more upbeat songs. As bizarre as it sounds, it works in a sublimely satisfying way. After all, not everyone wants to be depressing and cynical all the time, and some times you have just get up and dance to some super chillaxing tunes.
Melbourne, Australia’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever opened the show, and it’s clear why they have recently garnered tremendous buzz. They are attractive young blokes who sing very straightforward catchy pop tunes, while sounding a lot like Real Estate with touches of The Strokes or Phoenix from the scene a few years back, along with a bit of the cool 80’s college power pop and anthem rock bands like The Beat (the American one with Paul Collins) and The Outfield (who are still a guilty pleasure of mine to this day). They clearly have some big support now having signed with Sub Pop and just released a self-titled EP for the label. This is a genuine pop/rock band, with nothing over-the-top, but it certainly has a surprising lyrical intensity with a sparkling catchiness.
“I’m going to take us back to 2008, when I wrote this song while I was working at an American Apparel. During my lunch break, I came up with this sound, and the rest was history. It goes to show you anyone can do this,” said Alaina before breaking into “Marathon” off their debut album Cape Dory from 2011. Sadly, it was one of the only early songs they played all night, although I may have been one of the few in the audience more familiar with that disc than all the subsequent others.
In a set that was mostly new stuff, along with quite a few from their last couple LPs, you truly feel how far their character arc has come. They started off so raw and nostalgic, with that single organ, strum, and drum and harmonic sway that screamed of 60’s girl groups, surf rock, and sunbaked sailing trips, which was an appeal that you wouldn’t expect from a group that lived at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Over the years, they have slowly but surely moved into a somewhat more late 70’s groove, like Captain and Tennille, Olivia Newton-John, and Debby Boone having a massive meeting the 90’s indie-rock scene with a lot of Belle and Sebastian, Cocteau Twins, and Camera Obscura to swoon along with, in addition to some more recent Best Coast or Dum Dum Girls. It may be a bit formulaic and repetitive from track to track, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t get me just swaying and bopping giddily with each song.
Article: Dean Keim