Look, I’m gonna be honest here: Tennis is not my kind of music. To explain why, allow me to direct you to the “Formation” subheading of the band’s Wikipedia page: “Alaina Moore (born May 9, 1985) and Patrick Riley (born September 9, 1986) met in a philosophy class while both students at the University of Colorado, Denver in 2008. The couple started the band after they returned from an eight-month sailing expedition down the Eastern Atlantic Seaboard after their graduation. Moore had initially intended to go to law school. The songs on the band’s first album would come to document their experiences sailing.” If you can get through that paragraph without gagging at least four times, then you are a stronger/less judgmental person than I.
And yet, I have to admit, I kind of like their latest album, Yours Conditionally. It was, don’t get me wrong, effectively a forced purchase for me: when I renewed my subscription to the monthly record club Vinyl Me, Please early this month, Yours Conditionally was the Record of the Month, and it was already too late for me to swap. I considered flipping it on Discogs, but I decided to make a stand for integrity: I pride myself on my eclectic tastes in music, god damn it. So why couldn’t I find it in my heart to enjoy a twee indie pop record (gag) by a married couple (gag) who sing about their sailboating expeditions (blaaarrrrrrrrggggghhh)?
Fortunately for my virgin ears, Tennis is only really “indie pop” by circumstance. Their sound (and hair–see above) is pure, Laurel Canyon-style ’70s soft rock, which happens to be one of my guilty pleasures. And while that doesn’t keep them from being the Whitest Goddamn Band since Vampire Weekend, it does make them worth checking out, even for incorrigible reverse-snobs like myself. As for why I’m profiling them for Women’s History Month, that happens to be the most interesting thing about Yours Conditionally: it’s basically a concept album in which Moore, the pair’s lead songwriter, grapples with reconciling her feminism and the traditional tropes of pop songcraft; as she put it in the short essay included with the album’s Vinyl Me, Please edition, it’s about “determining the limits of belonging to another person.”
Probably my favorite song on the record, musically and lyrically, is “My Emotions Are Blinding.” Over a smooth electric piano hook, Moore glibly recites some of the most pernicious (and persistent) stereotypes about women: they’re “closer to nature,” driven by emotions, mere “vehicles… for the material” rather than dispassionate, rational creators. And yet, as the effective leader of the band–not to mention a creator so dispassionate and rational she annotates her own page on Genius–she implicitly dismisses those stereotypes. And she does it with a melody that reminds me of Neil Young at his most laid-back and tuneful. So there you have it: I fucks with Tennis. I was wrong; Vinyl Me, Please was right. And I’m ending the month of March just slightly less judgmental than I began it.
It’s too late to get Yours Conditionally from Vinyl Me, Please, but if you’re interested in broadening your musical horizons in other ways, please feel free to sign up (and get $10 of store credit!) using the provided referral link. Your new membership will also earn me $10, which I promise to only spend on Future records. And of course, keep following our Women’s History playlists on Spotify and YouTube: