Grade: 80% (B-)
If you came upon Tennis' second album looking for cute indie-pop, then you will get exactly what you came for. This album, much like last year's Cape Dory, is carefully constructed indie-pop that will surely catch your ear and make you want to tap your foot. The couple turned trio does a good job maintaining many of the elements from their debut while also expanding their sound in slight ways.
The components of Cape Dory are all still present on Young and Old, however, it is a little sharper and jarring. Alaina Moore sings with more authority and sturdiness, and assists this with her lyrics. While her voice is just as youthful and lovable, her lyrics are more thoughtful and though-provoking than the debut. On the opener, "It All Feels the Same," she sings, almost with pain in her heart, "tired of waiting around for you to intervene. tired of wishing that you even knew what i mean." There are bits of emotional flares like this, but no single moment which sticks out as a defining moment on the record.
The rhythms take you seemingly back to the 50s and 60s with Patrick Riley's (husband of Moore) guitar work moving up and down the fretboard seamlessly and in a charming fashion. While his guitar maintains the pop-feel of the record, the bass on songs like "Petition," the brass on "Origins," and underlaying synths on "Traveling," are what make this effort a little different from their first. All the while, Moore stands firm in front of her keyboard, pushing the songs along with her steady piano chords.
Recorded and produced by the Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney, the album shows strong mixing. Most notable is their ability to layer the background vocals in with the lead vocals. On "Petition," there is a dueling aspect to three different kinds of vocals that Carney swerves about each other and affects with different tools in order to give the listener the idea that they are hearing three different women singing.
At the same time however, most of the songs sound very similar. While certain choruses and riffs stand out, the album sways very little from it's intended genre on a track-by-track basis. In that sense, the track listing is seemingly unimportant. No single track really stands out on its own as a "key track," and this seems to fault the trio and does not help gaining more respect for their sound.
The album is neither excellent nor poor. Instead, like many others from it's genre, it is a vigilantly written and recorded record which contains many songs that can be added to your casual playlist, but none that can be added to your favorite playlist. These are easy listening tracks, and with a little help, a track or two might touch you with their lyrics and become a favorite. In all likelihood however, a few of these tracks will get mixed into your dinner party background music rather than a friends new mix tape.