Review Summary: An irresistible burst of sunshine in the dead of winter.
On paper, the premise behind Cape Dory
is teeth-gnashingly cute. The husband-and-wife duo behind Tennis, Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, took an eight-month sailing trip and wrote short, sweet ‘60s-inspired pop songs about it. Their lyrics alternate between silly nautical rhymes (“Coconut Grove is a very small cove”) and irritably lovey-dovey flights of fancy (“Take me out, baby, I wanna go sail tonight / I can see the ocean in the pale moonlight”). Their sound is hardly anything new, existing in the same ‘60s-revival indie pop vein as Best Coast and the Dum Dum Girls. Their songs are line-crossingly similar to one another, making their debut sound almost as homogeneous as Crazy For You
. And to top it all off, that album cover exemplifies every single bad quality of "retro". But there’s something utterly charming about the way these songs unfold, with Moore effortlessly capturing their inherent romanticism and Riley’s guitar work practically radiating sunshine. I mean, "Take Me Somewhere" is pretty much the same song as "Bimini Bay", but at least it's a good
Which is really what this album is all about
: the tunes. What Cape Dory
lacks in substance, it makes up for in hooks. The best songs here feature irresistibly catchy melodies and lovely vocal harmonies, lending a playful sheen to a potentially soggy line like "Darling you know I love you / I love you, oh-oh-whoa-oh". It helps, of course, that Moore has a gorgeous voice that makes even the most trite of sentiments feel genuine, and that Riley's pop sensibilities are rooted not simply in trendy surf-rock but also in old-school doo-wop tradition. The production is lo-fi but not insistently so, giving Moore's voice an appealingly polished sheen while retaining just enough fuzziness to evoke lazy days on the beach; this is a water-centric album, after all. And while there are times when the formula that Tennis work with fails to yield galvanizing results (the largely lifeless "Pigeon" comes to mind), they are happily outnumbered by successes. Besides, at just under 30 minutes, Cape Dory
is a largely painless listen, and although it doesn't try to be groundbreaking in any way, it's a likable and assured debut.