If Tennis’s music is good at one thing, it’s traveling back in time to the warm, breezy summers of the early 70’s. Their retro sound features balmy keyboards, pronounced bass lines, and soothing harmonies that are reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac and Carly Simon. The husband-wife duo started making music during their seafaring adventures in 2010. Their 7-month sail along the Eastern seaboard inspired their entire first album, Cape Dory (2011). In a span of 4 years, they released three albums that established and mastered the dreamy, surf pop that Tennis is now known for. For their fourth album, Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley went back to the drawing board – or in this case, their sail boat – for inspiration and a change of scenery. They released Yours Conditionally (2017) in March, and in it, Tennis revamped their music while keeping true to their vintage, swoon-worthy sound. Yours Conditionally is filled with punchy, sarcastic lyrics and also sweet declarations of love. The album is very similar to their previous work in sound and style, but some of the new songs offer more meaning if listened to carefully. Just last week, Tennis released We Can Die Happy (2017), a 5-song EP. It feels like an extension of Yours Conditionally, one that isn’t necessary but always a delightful surprise. On Friday night, Tennis shared their new and old music with San Francisco at The Fillmore and provided insight to some of their most popular songs.
The night started with an empty stage and the immediately recognizable harmonies from “In the Morning I’ll Be Better.” Full of emotion, Alaina sang about surrendering to the imperfections of life and accepting them before moving on the next day. Patrick floated/tip-toed around the stage with his guitar, but really the entire night’s energy came from the delicate yet powerful voice of Alaina. Still, Patrick’s guitar solos were made memorable from the way he swayed back and forth never taking his eyes off his partner. The married couple twinned onstage with Alaina’s chunky glitter shoes and Patrick’s sequin shirt. To complete their oldies music aesthetic, a disco ball lit the room just as the dancey chorus of “Never Work For Free” started playing. The lights, the disco ball, the vintage sound, Alaina’s afro and flare jeans, and Patrick’s interesting dance moves all together felt more like an old movie than a concert.
While many of Tennis’s songs are dreamy, romantic love songs, they are also known for creating lyrics that touch on serious topics like feminism and mental health. Halfway through the set, Alaina told the crowd about being handed a piano instead of a guitar during her childhood even though guitar is now her favorite instrument. “This is my ode to if-only-I-was-a-dude-that-learned-guitar,” and with that, Tennis performed “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar.” This song is dripping with saccharine sarcasm. The only thing that would top it all off is if Alaina played the lead guitar part undermining all the gender norms she sings about. That would’ve been the sweetest cherry on top. As the lights dimmed for the next song, “I Miss That Feeling,” Tennis got intimate, explaining the song’s inspiration, which is the love-hate relationship between Alaina and her anxiety. The way she describes panic attacks almost seems like she’s describing the feeling of falling love. It’s the romance that Tennis is known for but with different intentions and interpretations.
To say the least, Yours Conditionally and We Can Die Happy show that Tennis can still successfully master 70’s pop with sophistication in lyrical content. Even though their new music is not entirely brand new, Tennis’s concert was most definitely worth getting to experience all of the highlights across four albums compiled into one setlist. And now, there are plenty of beautiful, poetic songs to listen to whenever life calls for some time traveling.
Tennis is currently on tour in support of their fourth studio album, Yours Conditionally. Tickets can be found on their website.
Article and Photos by Annie Nguyen