PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Tennis: Yours Conditionally

Tennis's fourth LP adds nuance, definition, and depth to their already well-established sound.


Yours Conditionally

Label: Mutually Detrimental
US Release Date: 2017-03-10
UK Release Date: 2017-03-10

By now, most have probably already formed an opinion of husband-and-wife duo Tennis and their light, sunny brand of indie pop. The band has a signature style that is either cloyingly cute or refreshingly summery depending on the listener. We first became acquainted with Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley on 2011's Cape Dory, which chronicled the pair's seven-month voyage aboard a sailboat. Now, in preparation for Yours Conditionally, Moore and Riley yet again embarked on an aquatic journey, this time to the Sea of Cortez. The purpose of the excursion was to mine their creativity and "revisit our past to salvage the present", as Moore writes in a press release. They composed about half of the new record prior to their voyage, and the other half at sea.

If Yours Conditionally wasn't packed with such tightly constructed, compelling pop songs, this could all be a bit infuriating. You can't pull the same cutesy gimmick to sell two different albums, one might say. And indeed, if Tennis's latest effort relied on the story of its nautical conception to be compelling, this would be a fair complaint. Fortunately, the songs themselves are content to reduce the autobiographical elements to mere footnotes, standing entirely on their own.

Listening to the record, one can easily imagine how it might have been crafted amidst salty winds and hazy sunshine, but neither does it feel like an album simply about a vacation. The songwriting includes enough bite and introspection to balance out the band's easy, relaxed sound, allowing enough clouds to roll in to keep things interesting. Moore skillfully and subtly modulates her voice between soft, delicate coos and forceful, smokier growls, as on the melancholy opener, "In the Morning I'll Be Better". Her technique ensures that the album consistently feels dynamic.

The tension between delicacy and toughness is in many ways the album's defining feature. Yours Conditionally is notable for Moore's considered examinations of gender dynamics, particularly the intersection of her need for autonomy and independence with the parallel desire for love and touch. The very title of the record emphasizes a leveraging of power, a refusal to submit to ownership. On "My Emotions Are Blinding", she interrogates the stereotype of women as "hysterical" and laments the "binary opposition" of gender roles. "Ladies Don't Play Guitar", which retains the duo's penchant for '70s music while inching closer to mellow disco than soft rock, is even more explicit in its rejection of patriarchal norms. "Try to build a legacy / That will not complicate the future of your own progeny," she spits sarcastically, taking down fragile masculinity and the injunction for women to always cede the spotlight to men.

Equally affecting are the record's more vulnerable love songs. Moore frankly acknowledges the needs and desires that drive us to intimacy, even as entering into such relationships can trigger uncomfortable questions about power and dependence. "I really need you / What's the use living without?" she cries over the soft landscape of "Field of Love". At times, these less robust numbers veer toward pleasant but nondescript territory, a persistent problem for Tennis. However, the duo mostly makes up for it with tracks like "Modern Woman", which is among the loveliest offerings here. The stripped down number is a simmering admission of our simplest but most potent desires. "All I want is comfort in a touch or a look", Moore sings in a gorgeous, desperate, late-night croon, taking on a power ballad-worthy melody with impeccable restraint and delicacy.

Yours Conditionally makes no attempt to reinvent Tennis and suffers from the same flaws that have mired much of their music, namely a tendency toward pleasant predictability. While the album is largely content to reside in familiar, unchallenging territory, however, it is also a lean and well-crafted set of pop songs with more bite than it lets on. It remains a largely satisfying venture that adds nuance, definition, and depth to the band's already well-established sound.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.