Small Sound finds husband and wife duo Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, otherwise known as Tennis, showing both lyrical and musical growth as they collaborate with producer Richard Swift (Foxygen, The Shins) for the first time. Where producer Patrick Carney, who worked on their last album, 2012’s Young and Old, tended to make the fuzzy guitars and twee-ish vocals the focus, Swift helps the duo deliver some solid, even danceable beats and layers of deep, though fun, sound.
The EP opens with the single “Mean Streets,” which they wrote about the late, great Laura Nyro. “Laura, there’s nothing wrong with fame,” Moore sings ever so sweetly. “Leaving them surreptitiously could make a hit out of any song.” Clearly, they’re becoming more clever lyricists, but it’s the song’s intoxicating groove that impresses most. The bass guitar and organ reach out and sooth your soul while the fabulous drum beats — dig the repeated roll — make your body want to move. It’s easily one of 2013’s best pop songs.
’70’s throwback “Dimming Light” is a bit more subtle than “Mean Streets” with a laid back melody and slightly quieter drums, but with repeated listenings it proves to be equally catchy. Before Moore even starts singing, the bubbly bass guitar and jangly guitars already have you hooked. During the verses, her vocals tend to glide below the music, but they come to the forefront during the blissful chorus. “When the night comes we will be restored / You’re the one that I love,” she sings ever-so-happily. If you detest twee, you should stay far away.
There are echoes of ’60’s surf rock during the bittersweet “Timothy.” “It’s hard I know / But I can’t let go,” Moore sings to the song’s namesake crush. It’s enough to make you swoon. “100 Lovers,” which is the closest the EP comes to the sound of the duo’s previous releases, finds her singing about a heartbreaker of an ex. ““100 loves will make you bold, 100 more will make you cold,” she sings with a ’60’s girl group vibe. And “Cured of Youth” is a slick and funky number that would seem to feature a bassoon.
Though not quite literary rock (or pop), Tennis certainly know how to spin tales with their always adorable tunes. You could fault them for being so sun-kissed and sweet, but why not just enjoy them instead?