Disco-indie. It’s not a vibe that’s brand new for Tennis. Their beloved 2020 album Swimmer was fun. With delicately layered guitars, pianos and synth licks, it flouted the dream-pop labels people wanted to give them, instead offering a sound that sat somewhere between bands like Alvvays, Best Coast, and Beach House. It was the next step in what seemed like an inevitable process.
Ever since their 2011 debut, Cape Dory, you can tell that the husband and wife duo have been slowly edging towards a project like this. You can hear it creeping closer on every record – gradually putting the guitars on a backburner and turning to the computer more and more after already flirting with the sound on tracks like 2012’s ‘My Better Self’.
Having previously been inspired by surf rock and Americana nostalgia, prompted by the couples’ shared love of sailing, it seems like they’ve finally found their land legs on Pollen – and they want to use them to dance for a while. So if Swimmer was the precursor, like an audio pre-drinks – Pollen is a party. A cool, artsy, backroom party.
From the opening of ‘Forbidden Doors’, Pollen twists and turns in and out of what you’d expect from the band. Alaina Moore’s sugary sweet voice leads you in, making you think that this could just be a safe continuation of their last album.
Not so. Like any good party, you have to give it a moment. It’s only 11 o’clock, so let everyone get comfortable. The first two tracks are like those early hours. Your head is nodding along, and the synth-organ suggests silly times to come. The party’s foundation is laid!
Then ‘Let’s Make A Mistake Tonight’ hits. Alaina’s voice finds a new confidence that we haven’t heard on a Tennis track before – suggesting a sense of certainty and self-assurance that backs up the feeling that this is the kind of album they always hoped they’d make. Dropping all shyness, the vocals fit perfectly with the lovely backing guitar licks and big drum-machine kicks.
It’s a song that could easily be remixed and turned into a huge euro club banger, already encapsulating that campy, art-pop vibe. Balancing fun with listenability, I never would’ve expected Tennis to create a song that struts so well, but this is the track to play loudly in your headphones when you need a ‘hot girl walk’. It never quite reaches these highs again, but Alaina’s vocal confidence remains. Every song carries the same energy of fresh assurance and screams of a creation process that was free from pressure.
With running themes of hotels and holidays, this is Father John Misty’s God’s Favourite Customer for hot, cool couples. Still, with the same effortless sentimentality and easy-listening qualities the duo are known and loved for, Pollen pushes at their edges and finds something more joyous. Like a disco ball spinning in a lounge, seeing you through the start, the messy middle, and the hazy end of a party – Tennis have created a soundtrack from high to hangover on Pollen.