CD Reviews: Tennis, Rosie Thomas and more
'Young and Old'
On their debut (2010's "Cape Dory"), Tennis, the husband-and-wife indie pop duo of Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, laid down an almost unfairly effective template: a nostalgia-laden trip of fuzzy female vocals and gentle, lo-fi guitar licks that sounded like the house band at Thistledown (the members-only yacht club owned and operated by Wes Anderson). Their sophomore effort is embroidered on the same retro pattern, but the pair now sounds like the club crashers, spilling Pimm's cups and kicking over the amps with twee swagger. In support of this pleasing turnabout, opener "It All Feels the Same" starts with their familiar nautical bounce, before launching into a wound-up garage groove that points up the relatively butch production from the Black Keys' Patrick Carney. Slicker and stronger than "Dory" from start to finish, "Young and Old" shows that Tennis is still in love with their own loveliness - but really, who can blame them?
If you've recently unearthed love, the fourth album (and first in four years) from singer-songwriter Rosie Thomas might be just the thing for you. If pure-hearted professions of devotion aren't your cup of chamomile, avert your ears: "With Love" reflects Rosie's own road to health, happiness and marriage after a long bout of illness, and it fairly ripples with gently uplifting folk-pop songs built around her simple, unadorned voice, bolstered by contributions from Sam Beam (Iron & Wine), Dave Bazan (Pedro the Lion), and members of Sufjan Stevens' band.
'A Sleep & a Forgetting'
In his third album of quirky chamber pop under the Islands moniker, Nick Thorburn, the man who once wrote catchy ditties about unicorns, tackles a subject much less mythic: the misery of a failed relationship. Surprisingly sedate but ultimately seductive, this stripped-down effort carries the quiet shock of the class cut-up finally dropping his facade and reading aloud from his journal, dropping jaws with dream-like images of cities on fire and love thrown on the pyre.
'Form & Control'
The Phenomenal Handclap Band
Plumped up and pulsing with robotic pleasure, the sophomore record from this New York-based cosmic-disco collective is in love with perfection - specifically, the silky, synthetic isolation that can only be achieved in the studio. The organic funk elements that graced their debut have largely given way to a wiry glam sound, with synthesizers throbbing insistently beneath clipped, multi-tracked siren voices, and squiggly Eastern melodies squirming through the vacuum-packed house drums. It's a sharp look, but also an unrelenting one that leaves little to the imagination.
Man and nature collide in weird ways in this Austin-based band's wordy, high-IQ indie rock.
The Explorer's Club
On their debut, this Charleston, S.C.-based group pulled off a perfect (perfect!) Beach Boys sound. Now who's ready for some sweet Burt Bacharach? Yeah!