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Courtesy of Mutually Detrimental

February 16, 2020

TEST SPIN | Tennis — ‘Swimmer’

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After Tennis (husband-and-wife duo Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore) released Cape Dory in 2011, their ability to paint stories and to provide tasteful sounds has largely contributed to their growing success and popularity. Nine years and four acclaimed studio albums later, Tennis released Swimmer. Self-produced and mixed by four-time Grammy nominee Claudius Mittendorfer, Swimmer should be viewed as a model album for aspiring musicians. It perfectly utilizes melodic and lighthearted sounds to accompany poetic lyrics carried by the sweet voice of Alaina Moore.

Since Tennis’ last studio album, Yours Conditionally, in 2017, Riley and Moore have experienced multiple moments of adversity that have shaped and strengthened the love between the two. Moore was sick in the hospital with the flu, Riley’s father died of cancer and his mother was hospitalized after experiencing a stroke. Thus, Swimmer is a narration of Riley and Moore’s journey through a period of pain and loss, a testament to the durability of their love.

Through skillful lyricism, Tennis once again paints vivid stories that promptly whisk you away into a basin of emotions that emphasize feelings of natural love, sexual attraction, grief and perseverance. On “I’ll Haunt You,” the premier song on Swimmer, Tennis masterfully expresses reflections of love and time through singing, “As the sun slips over my shoulder / I can tell I’ve been getting older / Drawn to you like the horizon / I’m the first one to break the silence.” On “How to Forgive,” Tennis delicately represents the challenge to forgive and to confront or navigate emotions by singing, “How could I disguise the way that I’m feeling / I’ve got my reasons, I’ve got one million / My mind has been divided / And I’ve been questioning myself / Can’t keep on hesitating.” Feelings of difficulty, love and fortitude are often difficult to express through words, yet Tennis seems to have no challenge communicating their sentiments eloquently.

More than skillful lyricism, Mittendorfer artfully incorporates swank piano and drum lines that accentuate Moore’s voice, allowing each song to sound complete and precisely layered. As a result, Swimmer’s stylish indie-pop production creates the perfect environment for one to be meditative and feel playful. Even in moments when lyrics speak of tragedy, the melodic and lighthearted sound of Swimmer provides a sense of serenity and insurance that the current moment of tragedy is only temporary.

Released on Valentine’s Day, Swimmer is an effective reminder that in moments of tragedy, love has the power to heal wounds and make us stronger. Swimmer reminds us that in moments of pain and loss, seeking those who we love for support is natural and healthy. Regardless of what obstacles Tennis faced, they showed that love could endure through all and could even become stronger. Personally, I recently became a fan of Tennis because of the messages they send across their projects and their style (both in fashion and production). I found Swimmer to suitably meet my expectations, and I highly recommend this album to anyone looking to hear poetic lyrics and mellifluous composition. 

Jeremiah LaCon is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at jlacon@cornellsun.com.