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Tennis – Pollen Review

Knowing nothing of Tennis and barely anything of soft rock and its broad expectations gives Pollen that sweet chance of success. With track titles giving nothing away, an opening feature that opens those titular Forbidden Doors, the presence Tennis can hold is theirs for the taking. What they do with those yacht rock charms on their sixth studio album makes or breaks over a decade of what this now duo act is building toward. Deceptively easy listening, with unremitting lyrics, particularly striking riffs and a disconnect from reality all seeping through with that Denver charm. Trippy little piano workings and latter-half distortions give Forbidden Doors the presence of a late-game single and the desperate clamours of inspired fear.  

Tennis still has something to prove after all these years and Pollen is their best shot. Feel good? Hold tight. Glorietta pleads with its audience to take note of that, the confident mutterings of diving through skies in new formations reflecting nicely on the longevity the new alumni of Tennis holds. Psychedelic notes begin to pitch themselves, setting up camp in the darker pockets, those little shrouds of guitar work from the duo now marking a reflection rather than a statement. Over a decade in the industry and they have their hands on a rare chance for looking back with a new sound. Let’s Make a Mistake Tonight presents confidence in the pop-ready tones Tennis is taking onboard. Their yacht rock style, often influenced by literal chartings of the deep blue sea, lends itself to the shimmering, boisterous keyboards and the desire to bring out a stuffy style of old as a fresh direction of the now. 

Presenting that style in glitzy music videos and assured guitar work from Patrick Riley, laying down instrumental layers for Alaina Moore to leap from, Pollen is a burst of alluring power. Moore has a voice to get lost in and easily done so with tracks like One Night with the Valet, a short piece that rounds off the singles and gears up for the lengthier pieces ahead. Well, three-minute pop charms that sometimes find themselves daring to push for four. A little too short, that first single, but it does not set a precedent. Tennis shakes off the slightly unfinished feel and breaks on through with title track wonders, dedications to the rock of Gibraltar and the steamy wants of hotel room desire on the slowed-down shimmers of Hotel Valet. Two tracks about a valet. Fascinating.  

Pollen is a fascinating piece. It has all the assumptions of the indie pop genre, the emotional core from the vocal presence of Moore is the glue that holds those Riley instrumentals together. They are a strong pairing. It lends evidence to why the pair married. Pillow For a Cloud marks a considered closer, the lighter strokes of acoustic builds and the echoed appeal of Moore’s vocals, a constant for Pollen, are brought together. Consistency is crucial for Tennis and they strike the mood well and maintain it as best they can. No real detractions, just an unfinished little single toward the start that feels as though it was thrown out in a panic to shore up expectations before the release. What was released though, what features on Pollen, is a crucial and accessible showcase of their yacht rock, a psychedelic blurring sound that highlights their fears and anxieties with beautiful cacophonies. 

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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