After their third album, the slickly poppy Ritual in Repeat, Tennis did a bit of gentle rebooting. They shed a drummer, started their own label, and hit the open seas again to rekindle their songwriting flow, which had run ashore. They also took the wheel in the studio, throwing fancy producers overboard and halting the progression that saw each album they released becoming more and more slick. On Yours Conditionally, the duo of Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley aim for a much more homemade and immediate sound, similar to their debut, Cape Dory, but less bathed in reverb. Guitars move to the forefront of most of the songs, the drums (both machine-made and played by touring member Steve Voss) are snappily crunchy, and each song has a slightly different feel and sonic approach. It makes for an album that's punchy and sharp, still influenced by classic pop/rock song structures and recognizable to fans of Buddy Holly or the Shirelles, but with some new elements mixed in. Along with songs that could have slotted in nicely on a previous album, like the pleading "Fields of Blue" and the gently bouncy "Please Don't Ruin This for Me," the duo dips into some vintage soul on "My Emotions Are Blinding," which has the swaggering strut of a Brenton Wood song. They also dish out a couple impressive takes on Carole King-style swooning soft rock balladry with "Baby Don't Believe" and the heartbreakingly open-hearted "In the Morning I'll Be Better." Moore's vocals sparkle like uncut diamonds on these tracks; she just keeps getting better with each album. The duo's dialed-in and note-perfect arrangements are lovely throughout the album and the songs are heartfelt and hooky enough that they'd be just fine in the hands of a less potent singer. Add in Moore and Tennis become off-the-charts impressive. The revamping of style and substance on Yours Conditionally is also something special, helping it to become the best record they've made so far.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra