Tennis covers underrated greats: Broadcast, The Zombies

Alaina Moore & Patrick Riley of Tennis performing at Bottom of The Hill, 12/11/11

Minimalist pop band Tennis have developed a knack for crafting covers of unexpected musicians like The Zombies and Broadcast, selections eclectic enough to make a record store clerk proud.

Tennis is husband-wife duo Aliana Moore (vocals & keyboards) and Patrick Riley (guitar), collegiate philosophers who formed the band after a seven-month sailing excursion down the Eastern Atlantic Seaboard. (Can’t make this stuff up, folks!) Unsurprisingly their debut album Cape Dory featured major nautical elements, with titles like “Seafarer” and lyrics like “Take me out baby, I wanna go sail tonight” (from the title track). James Barone on drums rounds out the group, who just released their second album, Young & Old on Fat Possum. Their sophomore production features a richer sense of instrumentation, buoyed by the sharp production skills of Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. Key tracks: My Better Self (bizarro retro-chic  music video directed by Lilliput), and first single “Origins”… I adore the ski/spy caper premise of the video:

I saw Tennis perform last December at Bottom of the Hill, shortly before the release of Young & Old. I found their stage presence to be warmly affable, and it was refreshing to see a group display genuine enthusiasm in these sarcastic, ironic times. Moore even made an oh-so-mainstream reference to Sex and The City, joking about “not being a Carrie,” even though she resembles the curly-haired, diminuitive fashion plate.  Also, just take a look at their official website (you can play Minesweeper on it, for real!) Tennis came off as resoundingly likable people who just dig hanging out on boats and playing sweet ’60’-influenced pop songs, what’s not to love?

The Zombies are best known as the least prominent of the ’60’s Brit Pop explosion. Don’t discount their mildly-dark baroque pop, which contains intriguing depth within its sunshine-y exterior. I first heard the Zombies on the Life Aquatic soundtrack, with the “The Way I Feel Inside,” a hypnotic whisper of a song. (Side note: Digging the soundtrack for Moonrise Kingdom, featuring chanteuse Franciose Hardy and sultry track “Le Temps de L’Amour”.) The Zombies’ 1968 album Odessey & Oracle was ranked as #80 on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Best Albums of all time, featuring some of their best work, including their well-known hit “Time of the Season.”

“Tell Her No” is a jaunty refusal of a track, here’s the 1964 original by the Zombies:

Tennis spun their own surprisingly faithful rendition of “Tell Her No”:

Broadcast was a captivating, enigmatic British band which burned brightly, but far too briefly. Trish Keenan fronted the retro-futuristic group, frequently compared to sometimes-collaborators Stereolab. Keenan’s honey-sweet vocals contrasts the almost staticky, electronic instrumentation, creating a unique sound that feels simultaneously warm and cool. “Tears in the Typing Pool” is a 2 minute song on their the 2005 album “Tender Buttons,” their final album which was titled after a 1918 poem by Gertrude Stein; it’s a hauntingly lovely song that I can’t help but play on repeat.

Broadcast’s original (I may have already posted this song on this blog but I DON’T CARE because it’s so good):

Tennis’ cover doesn’t quite capture the psychedelic crispness of the original, but adds a slight lo-fi haze, a gauzy finish.

So, thanks for the awesome covers, Tennis! Now, can you come pick me up and we can go hang out on your boat?

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