Young and Old is named accurately, for it keeps true to its predecessors while debuting a somewhat matured sound. Harder guitar lines paired with the tambourine and Alaina Moore’s light vocals makes for an interesting evolution in their sound, while staying true to what we’ve always loved about Tennis. It’s still that beach-pop reminding us of the sailing trips that inspired 2011’s Cape Dory, still utilizing those underwater-sounding distorted and synthed-out vocals, but with a new spin on the old sound. There’s more rock and roll, more percussion punctuation, faster tempos — all making for a stronger sound that still has that classic Tennis appeal.
For those who have yet to discover husband and wife Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore’s band, think of them as a beautifully nautical combination of La Sera and Best Coast: surf-rock meets noise-pop and time travels to the ’60s. Their previous release, Cape Dory, became an internet sensation; this may be due to the catchy, upbeat, likable songs, or it may simply be due to the story behind the album.
You see, Moore and Riley met in college, pulled all their money, sailed the Eastern Seaboard for nearly a year, then made an awesomely maritime retro-pop record that perfectly encapsulated their incredible experience. Many versions of this story have floated about: that the name of the ship was the Cape Dory, that they got married on the ship, that they never planned on making music together. Regardless, everyone loves a good story about two people in love traveling the world and making great music as a result.
Moore and Riley, with third band mate James Barone, have experienced a whirlwind from the start. They didn’t start out playing empty bars and then get discovered; their first show was sold out. The internet blogs and media were so abuzz about this band that they really never got a chance to slowly and discreetly come into their own. With the success of Cape Dory, they really had to outdo themselves for Young and Old.
With this added pressure, the trio felt that what they really needed to have a leg up on their previous releases was to hire an outside producer. This turned out to be a more daunting task than they expected, and they decided to seek out bands they knew had produced themselves for the majority of their career. The first band that came to mind was The Black Keys, and they contacted drummer Patrick Carney who quickly jumped aboard.
Carney’s influence is immediately evident in the record; this is a grown-up sophomore album that stays far from being a slump while not wandering too far from the beaten path that they have so expertly blazed for themselves. This is clearly more general pop-rock than the strictly surf-pop that their last album delivered, and each song has much more variety.
Barone’s drumming brings a much-appreciated upbeat tempo while keeping the songs steady and lighthearted. Similarly, Moore’s vocals perfectly complement the dreamy lyricism and add a unique charm to each track. “Take Me to Heaven” sounds straight out of a 1950s jukebox at a diner, while “Petition” is a cool, modern take on their sound.
This record generally keeps a further distance from the dream-pop of their former releases, and is less Beach House and more Cults or Dum Dum Girls. This isn’t a bad thing at all, though it may not be as captivating as the seafaring story behind Cape Dory and the emotional connection created by it. So, it may not be their best, but it is a step in the right direction.