Monday, July 4, 2011

Tennis: Cape Dory

     When I first saw this album, I was very surprised. Look at it. The woman posing. The font. Even the band-name, Tennis. They all ooze a nineteen sixties feel, so imagine my surprise when I realised it was only released a few months ago. After a listen and a read however, I completely got it. The husband/wife outfit from Denver, Colorado had been on a seven month sailing trip before they recorded 'Cape Dory'. That experience must have been joyous, transcending the frustration of daily formality and the bear trap of social schedules. That care-free release is emulated fantastically well, even if the sound isn't that original, which it really isn't. It aims to meet the basic standards and regulations of pop music. Not higher, and not lower. It settles for mediocrity, but that's okay. It shines with a simple, honest aesthetic that rediscovers a time lost to reality, but no less beautiful.
     However, like childhood memories, it fades. There simply isn't anything all that memorable about this relatively short  half an hour album. I can't quite decide though, whether this is a good thing or not. Like childhood memories, I can see myself remembering the feeling of this record without going back and listening to it again. I can imagine locking away the best parts and amplifying them in a few months to make the album is my mind, sound better than it actually is. It's a strange ride on the nostalgia train.
     The track number weighs in at ten, so only a couple of songs manage to creep over the three minute mark, but seeing as they all sound rather similar, they tend to merge together in a warm fuzzy mess that works well in creating the atmosphere that cakes the music. The muffled recording only helps this feeling, blasting the music from the dirty old beatbox balanced out of your Volkswagen Type 2, which is coincidentally parked on a beach. From the peppy finger-snapping beat at the start of 'Marathon' to the guitar and melody on 'South Carolina', this album brings to life a vintage snapshot of summer love and butterfly chasing, the endless blue sky warming reimagined cheeks. Tennis know how to construct a competent pop number, let's just say. 'Pigeon' rolls about in the grass, overlooking your house before your mother calls you in for apple pie and ice cream. 'Bimini Bay' is the moment your father tells you you're going to have a little brother, and you run laughing and crying into his arms. There isn't anything like listening to this record, but like I said before, there isn't really anything to keep you charmed for more than a few listen throughs, more's the pity. There just aren't any memorable hooks here at all.
      This album sounds like it was recorded in nineteen sixty, and perhaps that's part of the problem. While it is pretty and reminiscent, maybe it concentrates too much on creating another sound, rather than crafting it's own. The muffled vocals and ultimately very repetitive sound make this record seem as though it's running on one gear. They all collapse in on each other, to the point where you can't tell when one track begins and another ends, on a passive listen. That's not saying the tracks aren't good, because they are in the end, very enjoyable in their nostalgic simplicity. I would have just liked it more if the tracks hinted at a time past, rather than meticulously copying that particular style. I could come in with the argument, if I wanted to listen to a sixties record, I would listen to a sixties record, rather than an impersonation, however good it is. I'll let you ponder on that, because even though I did really like this record, I was, and still am, slightly puzzled by it.