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Album Review: Tennis - 'Pollen'

Updated: May 3, 2023

Tennis power couple Alaina Moore and husband Patrick Riley are back with their sixth studio album, Pollen, on their label Mutually Detrimental which they formed in 2016. This move to self release was a big turning point for the duo and was influenced by working with Patrick Carney and Richard Swift of the Black Keys. Richard Swift’s producing and engineering style inspired Riley to engineer all of the tracks for Tennis thereafter.

While having monumental moments over the course of five studio albums, Tennis really found a groove with their top hit singles from Swimmer (2020) with “Runner” and “Need Your Love”. They have multiple legs of their 2020 tour sold out only to be devastated by Covid-19 and were forced to cut the tour very short. Keeping in stride though, they implored their unique but ever changing approach to making music. Yours Conditionally(2017) was written and engineered on a sailboat in the Cortez Sea. This is the very same sailboat that is documented on Cape Dory (2011) along with the time Moore and Riley spent traveling on the Atlantic Sea. On the methodology for production of Pollen Moore explicates: “To keep ourselves from falling into old habits, we used instruments and gear that are new to us. We work alone and Patrick engineers. The sounds he creates are as foundational as any part he writes. We resist the urge to over edit or do too many takes. Unlike previous albums which have been more wall of sound, we make a point not to overpower my voice with a dense mix.”

Pollen is preempted by the singles “One Night with the Valet” and “Let’s Make a Mistake Tonight”, with a music video for the latter as well. “ONWTV”, while less than two minutes long, tells a tale of great desire and hints at the unique sound Tennis hopes to bring to this new album. In my review of Swimmer almost 3 years ago, I talked about how Moore achieves “eighth wonder of the world” status as her shoulders sway in her green corduroy jumpsuit in the music video for “Need Your Love”. She only furthers this persona by having a simple black backdrop in the “Let’s Make a Mistake Tonight” video while wearing a silver, sparkling crop top and a matching floor length skirt. Later on, her wardrobe changes to a stunning black sequined dress.

On the intention and feeling of “LMaMT” Moore states: "'Let’s Make a Mistake Tonight' is all hubris, attitude, and wish fulfillment. I’m turning water into wine," "I’m reshaping my reality through projection or denial. While tracking with Patrick I kept envisioning the same scene: I’m in the passenger’s seat. Patrick drives with one hand on the wheel and one on my thigh. This song plays us out." says Tennis.

Pollen is intriguing and has a slightly different sound while remaining definite in the Tennis regime, it seems like a parallel step to Swimmer instead of a leap forward. Perhaps some of the wind in their sails was dampened by the shortened 2020 tour. Nevertheless, Tennis fans will be happy while listening to this album.

Rating - 4/5

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