Tennis isn’t just a sport—it’s also the name of a talented indie pop group from Denver, Colo. Tennis, composed of married duo Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, create a sound that is both groovy and catchy. Pollen, the duo’s sixth album release since its debut in 2010, contains lots of experimental instrumentation and genre switching.
Tennis’ music has the unique ability to transcend genres and time periods. While certain songs have an ’80s-esque synth, including “Forbidden Doors,” others are influenced by the indie movement, particularly the last two songs on the album, “Never Been Wrong” and “Pillow For a Cloud.”
Moore’s vocals are unmistakably unique. Her voice has a breathy, soft quality on songs with a more tender mood, while a quiet strength is evident in her range on other tracks.
On “Never Been Wrong,” the whispery yet strong quality of Moore’s voice is showcased, sounding similar to Phoebe Bridgers. This track also features an intricate guitar solo, even amid its more reflective feeling. Continuing with a Bridgers-esque sound is “Pillow For a Cloud,” an incredibly wistful song where the narrator ponders a number of “what if?” statements in her relationship.
“If only you and I began again / Instead of reliving old sins / I’d never let you down,” Morris sings.
This song is similar in style to the music of Boygenius, Bridgers’ supergroup with Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker. “Pillow for a Cloud” feels very modern and in tune with human emotions.
“Forbidden Doors” serves as a great opener for Pollen. The song is more lyric heavy than a number of the songs on the album, but it tells a beautifully composed story questioning all of the things that someone has missed out on or shut the door on throughout their life. It also emphasizes the uniqueness of Moore’s voice, and features a prominent electronic synth.
“One Night with the Valet” is another standout track on the album. Similar to “In the Morning I’ll Be Better,” released in 2017, this song showcases the softer side of Moore’s voice. The song is quite vibrant and also subtly uses a xylophone in the background, displaying Tennis’ creative use of instruments. Even the most subtle touches in Tennis’ songs make the full tracks layered and distinctly unique from one another.
The experimental use of instruments is shown again in “Paper,” which has a supporting flute part in the background. “Paper’ also demonstrates how lyrically attuned Moore’s voice is, with her ability to manipulate her voice to match the mood of a song. There also is a fade out with the synth at the very end of the song that provides a steady transition into the next track.
“Gibraltar” is one of—if not the best—song on the album. The track features a standout guitar section that differentiates it from the rest of the album. “Gibraltar” is a faster paced song than the others, adding a level of energy to a mellow album. The lyrics describe the desire to be with a person no matter the circumstances.
Pollen is a fantastic example of the modern indie music scene. Tennis’ ability to combine genres and its interesting use of instruments and vocals makes it a standout band. Pollen is a great indication of how far its music has come and how much more music it has to make.