Tennis serves up a hit with “Pollen”

Husband-and-wife duo Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, better known as Tennis, released their sixth album, “Pollen,” on Feb. 10. A follow up to 2020’s “Swimmer,” “Pollen” is a 9-track indie pop audio prelude to spring. It is also the third album released under their own label, Mutually Detrimental. With a sound reflecting the synth-pop of the 1980s, Tennis on this album evokes warm, rosy feelings, with on-the-nose lyrics that create a darker undertone.

Moore and Riley met when they were both attending The University of Colorado in Denver. After graduating, the couple took an eight-month sailing expedition down the Eastern Atlantic Seaboard, forming the band shortly after in 2010. Tennis’s released their first album, “Cape Dory,” in 2010, having been inspired by the couple’s sailing experience.

The band announced the album on Nov.15 last year, with the first single, “One Night with the Valet,” being released the same day. The couple does not stray far from their honeymoon phase, with “One Night with the Valet,” being inspired by their first encounter back when both Moore and Riley were in college. Eleven years later, Tennis is still singing about the longings of love for a time that is not so bygone to them.

“It continues the strange pattern in our album-making process in which the last song written is our most cherished. It is the companion song to Hotel Valet. Together they describe my meeting Patrick for the first time while he worked graveyard shifts as a valet and I waitressed a few blocks down the street,” Moore writes on Instagram, noting the inspiration behind the first single and sixth track on the album, “Hotel Valet.”

On the title “Pollen,” Moore told, “We named the album ‘Pollen.’ It is about small things with big consequences: a particle, a moment, a choice. It is me in a fragile state; something inhabited freely, sometimes reacted against. It is striving to remain a moment without slipping into dread. It is about the way I can be undone by a very small thing.”

“One Night with the Valet,” the fourth track, and an ode to the couple’s beginnings, is a mid-tempo, sultry slow-burn, which contrasts the disco-esque second and third singles. Moore opens the song with her hushed voice, almost whispering, “White doves come down / I’m out here standing in the wind / and even now / I’m tempted by the face of love,” sharing her initial moment of desire for Riley.

The second and third singles on the album, “Let’s Make a Mistake Tonight,” and “Forbidden Doors,” are drenched in warm, glittering synths that allude to the retro sound that Tennis has been known for. “Forbidden Doors” opens the album with Moore’s wispy voice singing about getting back together in a relationship. “What’s another highway? I can’t explain it / Can’t help the way it takes us over / Cut through the silence, I’ve got no patience / We’re knocking on forbidden doors,” Moore sings, with a piano echoing in the background.

“Let’s Make a Mistake Tonight” is the second single on the album. It is a gentle-disco track that is downright sexy. Moore sings about having a regrettable rendezvous with a lover, as they drive into the night, how she takes her “pleasure with the pain,” the lover (Riley?) having their hand on Moore’s thigh. Although more upbeat, it is just as sultry as “One Night with the Valet.”

“Hotel Valet” is most certainly a stand out. Coming in at track six, “Hotel Valet” again plays with the couple meeting and the motions Moore went through at seeing Riley as the valet. This song is sweet; it’s really Moore musing on serving her future husband dinner, including tongue-in-check lines such as, “I worked the kitchen when I carried you plate / Who would’ve known that I was serving you fate.”

Tennis takes a pinnacle moment and breaks it down and hyper-focuses on each moment that either took place in the real hearts of the band members, or in their creative minds. From the subtle political messages of the upbeat “Glorietta,” to “Pollen Song,” Tennis brings their indie-pop sound to the forefront again, crafting their sound better and better each album. “Pollen” feels like the next part of “Swimmer,” if “Swimmer” represents winter and “Pollen” obviously Spring, with its own identity that breaks out of the darker, melancholic sound of its predecessor.

Tennis’s U.S. “Pollen” tour begins on March 24 in Atlanta, Georgia. Ticket links, along with merch, are available on the band’s website,