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Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

Poppier than thou, much-lauded husband and wife duo release new EP with "added rock'n'roll muscle."
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Tennis 2014 - Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley Tennis 2014 - Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley[/caption]

Tennis - 'Small Sound' EP - Communion Records (out 3rd Feb 2014)

Being a husband and wife duo creating beautiful pop ditties is nothing new (see Mates Of State, The Weepies for excellent examples) but that hasn't stopped Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley - aka Tennis - vying for a place in the upper echelons of this usually oh-so-sugary-sweet genre.

For a start, these guys certainly don't wait around waiting for something to happen; forming in 2010, they had already released a couple of singles and a debut album in their first year, touring all extensively in the process. A second album (the critically acclaimed and Black Keys produced 'Young and Old') dropped in 2012 as did another slew of self-release singles. With that said, 2013 was a quiet year in comparison, but it has culminated in this, the 'Small Sound' EP, for which you - dear reader - have come to read about today.

'Small Sound' weighs in with 5 tracks, and you'll have to prepare yourself to give up a full 20 minutes of your time in order to enjoy it all. Given the range of songwriting ability on this EP however, it's more than likely that those 20 minutes won't be enough. Opener 'Mean Streets' should have your mouth watering from the off with Moore's sweet, sultry vocals laid over a simple piano/percussion-heavy slow jazz tune. There's something so effortlessly simple about the song's structure that you 're pretty much captivated from the off and only the coldest of hearts could deny them the singalong 'Give it what you got' chorus. They're not breaking any ground lyrically here but that was never the intention. Pop perfection achieved in a little over 3 minutes. 'Timothy' carries on in much the same vein; incredibly fragile vocally and musically, with more than a hint of Jenny Lewis' solo work peeping through - it's an out and out love song with more than a nod to the Motown era. The tempo is upped ever so slightly for 'Cured Of Youth'. Alaina Moore has the type of voice that can be twisted and turned into many different styles and although it isn't instantly recognisable from song to song, it still delivers; this time in the form of another killer chorus and the backing harmonies throughout.

If there are any bones to pick with 'Small Sound', it would be with 'Dimming Light', the penultimate track in this popped-out quintet. It revisits ground that's already been covered already on the EP, but even this is a minor fault. Similar to 'Mean Streets' in tempo and subject matter, it is a little different in that it lifts all the good stuff from the early nineties vocal harmonising of the early nineties pop of En Vogue and Wilson Phillips (stop laughing at the back!). And so we reach the end of the EP with '100 Lovers' - another slice of pop cake (?!) that brings to mind early Cardigans and brings proceedings to an end in pretty much the same way that they began.

Overall, Tennis have mastered the trick of not outstaying their welcome - there are no lolloping intros or drawn-out outros on show here; when they're done, they're done and you should be happy about that fact.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10