As winter begins to fade into spring, American indie pop duo Tennis unveils their nostalgic and sensitive sixth album. Pollen, released on February 10, 2023 under Mutually Detrimental. Husband and wife Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore started making music in 2010, releasing five more albums in the meantime. Their 2020 release Swimmer was named one of the best albums of the year by USA Today, and the duo is known for their dreamy, translucent music that transports listeners to a realm of absolute bliss. However, in their latest version PollenTennis took a step back, focusing on the small details of life and only adding instruments and production work to carry his message about the delicacy of living.
With piano chords and Moore’s unmistakable airy voice, Pollen opens with “Forbidden Doors”. The psychedelic nature of the track is reminiscent of Tennis’ previous works, but this hazy dream-pop wave allows the duo to carry their classic sound into this new era. The next track, “Glorietta,” changes chords as it begins with acoustic guitar notes. However, the song builds quickly and Moore’s strong, yet still whimsical vocals elevate the piece of female praise to that of Fiona Apple’s iconic feminist warbles. “From the ashes she is Lazarus/Wrapped in chemtrails/Watch them rise and fall/In V formation, I can feel it in my teeth.”
The fourth song “One Night with the Valet” emulates Beach House level synth and idealism. With Riley’s almost jazz-like piano chords and underlying background beat, the track showcases Moore’s incredible pitch range. The duo’s ability to strip down a song not in the instrumental sense, but in the production of it, resonates throughout the album, particularly evident in “Paper” and “Never Been Wrong.”
“Pollen Song”, the fifth track of Pollen, resides in the middle of the collection largely due to its unique nature. Tennis uses the song as a juxtaposition to its message; While the energy and catchy guitar tunes seem like the perfect spring jam, the lyrics covering the power that small things can have support the band’s message about life’s unintended consequences. As people cough and sneeze from pollen, it becomes difficult to remember that they are just plant seeds, something that should be harmless but affects everyone who passes by. “We follow the trail where the flowers fell/ But all I can think about is the pollen that’s screwing me up/ Everything’s going too fast/ Oh, I don’t know when my body became so fragile.”
The next two songs continue to exemplify Tennis’ new waves of fragility and synth, maintaining a constant feeling of spring air. The repetitiveness of the tracks allows listeners to fully engage with the compositions, letting the darker notes contrasted by Moore’s high vocals take full center stage with its elegance. “Never Been Wrong,” the ninth track, begins slowly as a misdirection before building into a full orchestra of ethereal sounds. The bridge, sung entirely in Latin, becomes a church choir procession, Moore’s voice ringing through every possible crevice in a fit of sacred light. “Tongue cannot tell what is unknown/You should not seek to see a miracle.” »
Pollen ends with “Pillow For a Cloud,” a song as beautifully imaginative as its title. Tennis has been making music for over a decade, but their expertise and skillful means of creating sublime beats have only improved over the years. As allergies begin to worsen in all of us, Tennis reminds us that a little pollen should never stop us from appreciating life’s little moments.