by Adelaide Sandvold ’18
When they first started out, Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley of Tennis were newlyweds who had just returned from a seven-month long boat trip with songs in lieu of diaries. Now, upon the release of their third album, Ritual in Repeat, the two have strayed from their defining retro-beachy riffs and opted for heavy, bouncing drums and beautifully insightful lyrics.
The song “Needle and a Knife” exemplifies both of these qualities. It kicks off with throbbing bass drums and bells, soon followed by acoustic guitar—a rare choice for Tennis. Formerly using simple or abstract lyrics, the band now offers more relatable and honest words like, “Only a lonely love can devour you / But when you’re lonely the same love empowers you.”
Tennis moves even further out of its comfort zone on “I’m Callin,’” which begins with a shamelessly funky synth intro, and “Wounded Heart,” which sounds like an Irish folk song. However, Tennis does not lose itself completely. “Timothy”, which appeared on the EP Small Sound, serves as a bridge from original Tennis to contemporary Tennis, carrying over a few traits from the past.
Listeners find the most classic Tennis sound in “This Isn’t My Song”—the highlight of the album—and “Bad Girls.” The former, which opens with dreamy guitars and light snares that welcome Moore’s dainty voice, revives the band’s original beach-pop style, with tastes of Vampire Weekend. The latter draws on an intense doo-wop inspiration, just like “Pigeon” from Tennis’s inaugural album, Cape Dory. It’s a pleading and building anthem with slightly sassy lyrics that serves as the record’s anchor.
Of all of Tennis’s work, Ritual in Repeat is the band’s most experimental product. Despite the noticeable influences from various bands, genres, and decades, the album is remarkably cohesive and not at all derivative. It’s a lovely representation of a band that knows where it started, where it wants to end up, and how it can gracefully get from from one to the other.
Ritual in Repeat is available on vinyl, CD, iTunes, and Spotify streaming.