A few years after their whimsical, nautical inspired debut Cape Dory, Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley’s newest release as Tennis had them right back where they started, writing songs in between sailing the open seas. Their aesthetic began and slowly evolved with fast paced tunes loosely based on 60’s love songs, evoking a youthful glow that shone through Moore’s bright vocals and Riley’s addictive guitar melodies, and now that saltwater streaked sound is back, more passionate than ever. Yours Conditionally – their fourth full length album to date – has the husband-wife team sounding less like a quirky caricature of sunny guitar pop and instead more sincere, uninfluenced by outside forces, unafraid to fully embrace their real emotions.
Half of Yours Conditionally was written on dry land, and the other half was composed while Moore and Riley were sailing from San Diego to the Sea of Cortez, the journey perhaps contributing to the album’s themes of bittersweet loneliness and detachment from the outside world. The combination of the stress in constantly manning a boat as well as the divine romance of being alone with your significant other on the open seas made for ten absolutely gorgeous tracks. Of course, the isolation also made for some intense soul searching on Moore’s part, and she’s even made clear that “lyrically, it is a consideration of [her] relation to the world as a woman, as an artist whose work is transformed by another’s experience of it, and the conflicting needs that arise from these intersections.” Musically, Riley provides instrumentals that act as both stabilizers and enhancers, but Moore’s lyrics and vocals provide warmth and sincere introspection – they personify a body and the heart that powers it respectively.
The songs, a careful concoction of love and cynicism, explore the complexities and intricacies of feminism from a married standpoint, where you can experience conflicting feelings of devoting yourself to your husband and wanting to be a mother, while at the same time trying so desperately to be your own person and pursue your innermost desires. “Matrimony,” Moore’s childlike, lovesick account of her wedding day, contains fuzzy drums so distorted it’s hard not to associate it with a pulsating heart. “Fields of Blue,” our favorite track off the album, is inspired by their ship’s log, where, as Moore told NPR, she often accounted for her own mental state instead of the whereabouts of their location, and where she and Riley often took appointed shifts, where one would manage the boat while the other slept. The idea of being responsible for your partner’s well being while at their most vulnerable was what inspired the sugary sweet sound of the track, where Moore unashamedly coos in the midst of Riley’s reciprocal bright guitar that she “cannot help herself” in loving the one that she does – “what’s the use in living without?”
The album, both vocally and instrumentally, is also a subtle nod to the masters of the 60’s and 70’s – “Please Don’t Ruin This For Me” sounding especially ABBA-esque in its pastel-tinged composition – and the delicate nature of both “10 Minutes 10 Years” as well as “Island Music” are no exception, both tracks where Moore gives her best vocal performance to date. The muted aura and echoed vocal construction of the latter is absolutely magical, evoking the sort of tracks that would play in smoke filled bars with dimmed lighting, a hazy ballad that’s designed to latch onto the frayed bits of your soul. “In The Morning I’ll Be Better” also evokes that retro aesthetic but in a much more euphoric sense, while “Baby Don’t Believe” enters funk territory, Riley’s guitar slipping and sliding in between subdued piano tones.
There’s no one moment in Yours Conditionally where it truly matches the jangly, upbeat frill of their past albums – the sheer amount of emotion and passion that bleeds through each track requires some effort from the listener to really feel all this album has to offer. However, that’s what makes it such a unique album – that, as well as the refreshing notion that Moore, though happily married, is still very much her own person, one not afraid to analyze herself and her emotions repeatedly in order to figure out just how much of herself she is willing to share with the people in her life. We’re just thankful Tennis is sharing with us too.
photo via noisey