Tennis #9 – Ladies Don’t Play Guitar

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Tennis are a band I’ve been fond of for quite some time now (I first wrote about them here back in July 2010) so their new track “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar” was a sure-fire candidate to awaken me from my slumber.

As the sarcasm in the title perhaps adheres, it sees Alaina shift from behind the keyboard to the guitar on a sneering track that sees her attack those who think her gender means she can’t be the songwriter in a band, of course being a Tennis track it’s also wrapped up in gorgeous minimalist melody, smouldering vocals and here, some rather funky early Prince-esque guitar licks. I'm certainly down with that. 

Tennis #8 - I'm Callin

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Tennis follow the super "Never Work For Free" with the second track taken from their forthcoming LP Ritual in Repeat, "I'm Callin". A track which confirms the bands shift to from the intimate lo-fi sounds of their debut to gorgeous 80's swoon-pop.

Here, Alaina Moore's candy-sweet vocals glitter right at the centre of the mix amongst a disco groove bass rhythm, breathy harmonies and luscious instrumentation, it. It's the sort of track that Madonna would have taken to the top of the charts twenty years ago.

I really like this band, I seem to find myself writing about pretty much every single they put out. I can't say much more positive than that. Listen below:

The Best Tracks of 2014 So Far (Part One)...

It's the mid-point of the year so I thought what better time for me to join in with the endless 'best tracks of the year so far' type posts... As you're reading this I'm probably just about getting home from Glastonbury but in no fit state to blog, so this post is a pre-write... I won't waffle too much, just copy my initial comments on tracks and add clips / link so you can listen to my twenty one favourite tracks of 2014 so far (it was twenty but I remember one I missed!). Eleven below in this post with ten more following in part two in precisely one minutes time. As ever with a list, it's ever-changing and I've probably forgot a couple of tracks too!

Before pedantic comments come out, a couple of these could technically be 2013 tracks but they are new to me in 2014, that's all that matters...

21. Tennis - Never Work For Free

...a slice of infectious, 80's leaning pure candy-pop propelled by a repeating drum beat, breezy guitars and shiny synth lines, it gives Alaina Moore's the freedom to soar with her timeless sounding vocal. The result is instant love and smiles.



20. Marissa Nadler - Dead City Emily

...sitting in the same realms of dark melancholy "Dead City Emily" is equally rewarding, with a pretty guitar melody creating a serenely beautiful mood around a soft soothing vocal, it's the sort of thing dreams are made of, comforting you like a warming blanket on a chilly, cold night. 



19. Ottilia - Siren

"Siren" is as minimal as they come, much likes last years "and then he said" demo and causes goosebumps with little more than Ottilia's woozy, lovelorn voice, the repeated, haunted vocal of "Don't go home with me, I'm a siren" and the lullaby echoes of an acoustic guitar, it's all that is needed to be carried away by this intoxicating, emotive beauty.



18. Abbey Bowden - Dust

"Dust", recorded live for Basement Sessions, sees Abbey sitting in a dimly lit room with pictures of singers hanging on the walls alone with her guitar. What comes to pass over the next four minutes is as cathartic experience as music can bring, a real send shivers down your spine moment as Abbey's soulful, emotive vocal purrs over delicate finger-plucked acoustic, utterly, utterly transfixing.




17. Layla - Black Mud

"Black Mud" aims to hit at your emotions, that much becomes clear after mere seconds as piano twinkles are joined by a string orchestra and Layla's soulful voice, they ebb and flow in perfect harmony with the instrumentation, one moment delicate, tender and pure, the next strong, passionate flourishes. The result leaves me swooning all over.



16. Ice Cream Cathedral - The Swans

A bizarre yet incredible single "The Swans" Immediately takes the trios self-defined genre of 'space pop' to the next level with a video that sees the band on an intergalactic journey across the universe propelled by subterranean beats and dreamy, Blade Runner esque atmosphere. It's not just Anja T. Lahrmann's breathy, soothing vocals that draws instant comparison with Annie Clark's but the magical sonic palette that "The Swans" follows, deliciously offbeat, eccentric and unpredictable, woozy synths are complemented by soaring guitars and all manner of 'space' effects and then at the four minute mark the bizarre turns into the unfathomable when the video sees the trio arrive on a barren looking planet inhabited by gigantic dogs (really) as the track morphs into an elongated instrumental ending of stark instrumentation and galloping beats. Quite the introduction!



15. Alexandra Stewart - I Grow

The skeletal beauty "I Grow" is led by melancholic piano and understated instrumentation which beguiles around a soft, dreamy atmosphere and Alex's soft, luscious vocal. The sort of voice that carries your mind away and here I'm left with my eyes closed and transported to somewhere as beautiful as the artwork that comes supplied on the soundcloud link. After three and a half minutes the track surprises, morphing from plaintive piano-ballad to something akin to a slow-motion Dirty Projectors at their finest, with ambient guitar shimmers and pared-down drums closing the track with the repeated whispers of the title. Absolutely gorgeous is this and that will do just fine for me today.



14. Eliot Sumner - Information

A surging drum march drives the synth-and-strings track forward with gorgeous shimmering guitars dueling with korg keys, it's Toy-esque both in terms of its dense, extended Motorik rhythms and progressive, glistening melody. "Information" keeps on giving throughout its seven minute duration, Eliot's soaring, impassioned vocal is just the icing on the cake.



13. Aldous Harding - Hunter

"Hunter" is taken from Aldous' self-titled debut album and now comes backed with a rather fittingly chilly, brooding video. The track is the sumptuous feast of rich musical landscape and fragile, haunting vocals from the get-go, Aldous blends a style not dissimilar from Joanna Newsom with touches of Joni Mitchell, with subtle, weaving melody and intriguing lyrics full of lovely imagery and extraordinary beauty carrying off to places warm and brilliant. It's just a shame you have to get on with your real life after. Here's a talent that can't stay hidden for long.



12. Hunt - Reset My Bones

Entwined around the poem "Jellyfish" by Andrea Gibson the track is heady mix of melody, emotion and beauty. It begins with a slow, longing introduction, built around a fuzzy bass line, metronomic drums and shimmering guitars before climaxing with a luscious crescendo of post rock noise and atmosphere and gorgeous, hazy vocal harmonies, light and dark merge effortlessly and my heart is instantly melted. Those drums at the end too...



11. First Aid Kit - Cedar Lane

Cedar Lane" is a rich, sumptuous beauty with slide guitar melody and heart melting vocals, just the sort of thing we've become accustomed to from the duo.

Tennis #7 - Never Work For Free

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A couple of weeks ago after seeing Tennis at The Great Escape I said something along the lines of the stand-out of their set being a new track; this is it...

"Never Work For Free" is a track from a band that have come along way since their debut; the cute, sea-faring set of tracks that made up Cape Dory. Here we're treated to a slice of infectious, 80's leaning pure candy-pop propelled by a repeating drum beat, breezy guitars and shiny synth lines, it gives Alaina Moore's the freedom to soar with her timeless sounding vocal. The result is instant love and smiles.

You can download "Never Work For Free" for free(!) via Tennis Music now. The album Ritual in Repeat is due in September via Communion.

Tennis #6 - Mean Streets

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The last time I featured Tennis (here) I did a long, waffling post about the fickleties of music blogs and events like Record Store Days. Fear not, they'll be none of that today, just a post on their luscious return "Mean Streets". The first track taken from the duo's forthcoming EP Small Sounds (which is released November 5th and available via the bands website) - US folk can see the band on a supporting tour too.

The track sounds like Tennis because of Alaina's distinctive vocals, as swoon-some and beautiful as ever floating amongst the soft, slow motion melody that accompanies them, a delicious combination of echoey guitars, pared-down beats and bubbling piano. "Mean Streets" however also manages to sound more purposeful at the same time, moving on from Cape Dory's infinity loveable themes with a wide-ranging, emotive palette - it promises much more from a band I already admire greatly.

Just Music That I Like's Favourite Albums of the Year 2012 - Part One

A little later than planned, it's finally that time for me to throw my hat into the never-ending 'album of the year list' ring. I've read a lot of posts dismissing all the end of year fanfare this time around but I enjoy reading lists and I'm sure many other of you do. The following five posts will be the albums I've decided make my favourite twenty five releases of the year, I've given them in order but naturally that seemingly changes every two minutes so is not to be taken too seriously (as if), there have been about 30/35 albums I've enjoyed this year and it was a difficult job to narrow them down from that number, aside from the top few, I think all the other albums are very even, I'll list the albums that nearly made this list in a round-up post after the top twenty-five are posted.

Beautiful Strange releases are void too - I'm a little biased.

In my opinion 2012 has been a good one for new music but a tricky one in so fact that there is no obvious contender for album of the year like in previous years (though apparently Frank Ocean is as close as that gets), I think that's partly the reason why most blogs/websites lists have more seen a bit more variety. Clearly I've not listened to every album released in 2012, that would be impossible and I don't simply have the time (or desire), but these are the albums I'm happy to have enjoyed this year...

Just Music That I Like's Favourite Albums of the Year 2013 - Part One

Other Posts: Part One // Two // Three // Four // Five

25.La Sera - Sees The Light

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Kicking off the list is La Sera's (Katy Goodman's) second solo LP

Sees The Light

, which from the outset delivers a quick, sharp blast of indie pop goodness. Ten tracks that stay with you for little more than half an hour but which manage to pack quite the punch in that time, keeping things simple throughout, 

See The Light

will make you want hit repeat straight away with its addictive, carefree approach to vibrant pop tunes.

From the woozy, melancholia of "I Can't Keep You In My Mind" and "Love That's Gone" to the super-charged fuzz pop of the sing-along hit "Please Be My Third Eye" and the similarly radio friendly single "Break My Heart",

Sees The Light

delivers on all fronts, that is if you like a bright approach to a lovelorn life. A glass is half full record, La Sera will bring you a smile with infectious melodies whilst Katy's dreamy vocals melts your (broken) heart. Stand-out track "I'm Alone" the perfect summation, give

it 

a try, you'll have no chance of resisting its charms.

24. Tennis - Young & Old

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I appear to be one of the few people who have really enjoyed both Tennis LP's, their debut

Cape Dory

was number 26 of my '

Best of 2011 lists

' and this,

Young & Old

scores a little higher, a slicker and more mature approach than the debut results in a sunny pop sound which is super clean and just lovely to listen to, it also helps that Alaina Moore has one of those voices that just makes me melt when I hear it.

"My Better Self" is my favourite track on the record, a toe-tapping keyboard lead and simple rat-a-tat drums give the basis for Alaina's pretty vocals to steal your heart. Pretty is the word for Young & Old and I mean that in the best possible way. Everywhere it turns it's beautiful, "Origins" is another key track on the record, highlighting the bands expanded dynamic with bright and breezy rhythms amongst guitar chimes, equally great is "Petition" another piano led track which bounces along with its infectious melody while nostalgic shimmers ooze from the delicious "Take Me To Heaven", oh yes Tennis, you can, quite easily. Luscious.

23. Stealing Sheep - Into The Diamond Sun

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Fulfilling the promise of the their earlier EP's

Into The Diamond Sun

is a perfect summer's day album, mixing the Liverpudlian trio's gorgeous harmonies with the individualistic kooky sounds that have become to characterise Stealing Sheep...

Into The Diamond Sun

is a delicious combination of spiraling vocal harmonies, psychedelic melodies and off-kilter drums (not to mention infectious hand clapping), impossible to pigeon-hole, Stealing Sheep deserve their own genre, one that's equally bonkers, enchanting and always fun and beautiful, for this album is most definitely that. Imaginative and incandescent throughout highlights are the infectious single "Shut Eye" (as played on Hollyoaks!) which has the most insanely catchy melody you'll hear this year, closely followed by the magical "Genevieve", eccentricity and hypnotic hooks all in equal measure.

Then there's latest single "Rearrange" with layered guitar patterns morphing into something truly gorgeous with siren-like harmonies before genre hopping once more on the haunting harmonies of "Tangled Up In Stars" with the kaleidoscopic trip of closing track "Bear Tracks" bringing out the best of Becky's sweetly-sung lead vocal. A beguiling debut and one that hints at much more to come, I look forward to that...

22. Sharon Van Etten - Tramp

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So I'm shooting with this one a lot earlier than most end-of-year lists I've read already, I guess that's the thing about taste, it's a subjective thing. This number feels about right for me,

Tramp

is Sharon Van Etten's finest moment to date, building on 2010's wonderful

Epic, Tramp

feels more 'complete', an affecting but beautiful listen throughout.

You can almost feel Sharon's grief on tracks like "Leonard" and "In Line", in complete control of her craft, her exemplary song-craft and versatile voice knock you for six, haunting and powerful, beguiling and strong, for me at least, the album is never better than on it's first single "Serpents", a ballsy, rocking number with clean vocals and strong drum beats.

Tramp

is full of emotion, sentiment and is beautifully crafted throughout, it's an album that I doubt has escaped your attention already (unless you've been on Mars of course) and it deserves the full scope of praise it's receiving, Sharon Van Etten is one of the finest singer-songwriters of our generation and I look forward to seeing what she manages to do with the attention she's created for herself.

21. Tender Trap - Ten Songs About Girls

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Tender Trap are one of those rare indie pop bands who are capable of effortlessly combining boundless, infectious energy with catchy and humorous songs,  alongside Amelia Fletcher's strong song-writing prowess Tender Trap can produce some truly fantastic lyrical melodies, something they've rarely bettered than on their latest LP

Ten Songs About Girls

...

"Train From Kings Cross Station" kicks off the album and is an exhilarating listen from the minute it pulls out of the station, it truly sets the tempo for what's to follow, a wonderful rocking homage to all sorts of things, My Bloody Valentine on (obviously) "MBV" while "Step One" sees the band drawing on their vast experience to give a tongue-in-cheek lesson to aspiring bands following in their footsteps, where playful, call and response vocals and a rocking melody lead a manual for wannabe girl groups.

Closing track "Love is Hard Enough" is equally wonderful, full of the bands dynamic bright instrumentation where the bitter-sweet lead of Amelia's combines with girl group doo-wop's harmonies to glorious effect with the twinkling "Leaving Christmas Day" another future indie-pop cult classic in the making.

Ten Songs About Girls

is an exciting, fizzed up listen from minute one to thirty-three, if you're after beautifully sung, exceptionally written indie pop, then this will be one of your albums of the year too.

Tennis #5 - My Better Self / Petition

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Something I've touched on a couple of times whilst writing this blog is the seeming need for bloggers to continue posting 'fresh' music on their sites which can lead to bands that have 'been there done that' as far as blog coverage goes far too quickly. The drive to be first (don't get me started on the 'buzz blog') and the self-manifested hunger to 'discover' new acts means there have been plenty of instances where bands have their debut track (normally recorded in their bedroom on a crappy laptop) promptly lauded over and quickly shared by 100's of bloggers around the world. Mega-stardom awaits it seems, or does it?

Before you know it the same band has gone from the best thing since slice bread to being forgotten and dumped in an ever growing abyss along with last weeks news. Yes, a slight exaggeration but it's similar to what happens. Even before a band actually has the time to produce a decent album they're resigned to chip paper. I'm not sure what it is. Perhaps it's the Internet and high speed broadband which means I can basically have any song I want right now. Or the iTunes effect which means people dip in and out of bands willy nilly. I'm an album person, I've always been an album person and hopefully given the chance I always will be but I've friends who are not. They want the one song by an artist that was on that car advert and aren't interested in anything else they've got to offer. Why spend time looking for music, good music should come to you. Or should it? I don't know.

I'm a music geek, there's not much that gets me excited like spending hours listening to a slab of wax or a new b-side for the first time. I am though in a minority. Yet today is now (as I write this the clock turns over to midnight) Record Store Day, a day when all other geeky minorities come together and support their local record store, but will you talk to anyone in the shop, the same one you've been going to for years and forge lasting relationships? No. You'll keep anonymous under a pair of headphones whilst you scramble to find that Ziggy Stardust picture disc or the St Vincent 7" with two new tracks that you can't even pronounce (hands off, I want that one!) and then quickly share the pictures of your 'stash' with your 1000 twitter 'friends'. That is the world we live in. Would I change it? Probably not.

Not much of that will probably make much sense when I come to re-read it in the morning, that page of text wasn't planned. The plan was a little introduction to say that if you read blogs in the summer of 2010 a band you wouldn't have missed on any blog were Tennis. They were about (according to blogs) to be 'massive'. "Marathon" and "Baltimore" were the perfect soundtrack to your summer and Tennis were the band to blissfully fall in love too. Yet here we are in 2012 (before I come to the obvious but, I'll just say that this is not a criticism or a negative towards the band at all - I love them, I've covered them quite a few times here, on a fan-blog which is 'the music that I like'), after Tennis' second album has been released and I see the band have announced gigs where they'll be playing in front of (at most) 150 people in Oxford. That's not exactly what all that early praise would have you believe, don't get me wrong, it's the basis of a career but where are the arenas? Where are the armies of fans? Where are the blog fanfares now? (They've more than twelve thousand fans of facebook to be fair). They've all moved on. Tupac's hologram and Lana Del Rey, that's where it is at (if you didn't know).

It's a shame because Tennis have just announced a double a-side single which should very well be the soundtrack for a summer of young love. Two highlights from their second LP 'Young and Old', "My Better Self" / "Petition" will be released via ATP Recordings on May 28th on 7" / Digital Download (with the previous mentioned UK shows around the same time - full details). It's safe to say both tracks are utterly marvellous. "My Better Self" is the softer and more restrained of the two, the swoon-some vocals of Alaina Moore are heartfelt and irresistible while "Petition" is overwhelmingly charming, with its gorgeous, glittery melody and bouncy key strokes it's likely to melt your heart and provide a burst of sunshine to your hectic life. Yes, perhaps we were right after all, Tennis are a band to love and be excited about. Best of all, you still can, no re-union tour needed here.

P.S. Those wanted a nostalgia trip of old windows operating system should visit the band's website too. Phew. If you're still here, well done you!


Tennis #4 - Origins / Tell Her No

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I originally had this post saved in draft form to mention Tennis' new (and now old) recordings, beautiful covers of The Zombie's "Tell Her No" and Brenda Lee's "Is It True", faithful to the classic originals in terms of composition and melody and faithful to the duo's own LP in terms of the bright guitar lines and sweet affection of Alaina's gorgeous vocals. Both tracks are available for free from the Tennis' website here.

More excitingly though, the Denver based husband and wife duo, expanded to a trio with drummer James Barone have annouced two new releases, their second album, due via Fat Possum on Valentine's Day 2012 and before that a new double a-side 7" single, 'Origins' which will be released December 13th via Brooklyn label Forest Family. Run by the guys at Gorilla vs. Bear they have an exemplory record of releases and sales too, as even in these tough times for records, every one of their releases is sold-out, this will be soon too.

"Origins" is equally charming, the vocals warms and welcoming, the key line bouncy and repetitive, for those who thought their debut was a little lacking and similar the instrumentation is expanded and beautifully polished. I'm certainly excited to hear the flip side and the rest of the album. You can pre-order now via Rough Trade.

I've only seen them once, at Primavera, it was bloody lovely. 'Cape Dory' possibly hasn't got the acclaim I expected it to, perhaps the blog hype they got around the time of "Marathon" last summer had waned a little by it's January release, or perhaps folk couldn't accept a nautical themed, fuzzy and warm love story in the cold, cold months. I've no idea, it's a great album anyway, check it out if you haven't. They play some US dates in December with hopefully a UK return on the horizon next year.

Origins by tennisinc
Tell Her No by tennisinc
Is It True? by tennisinc