Music Review

Tennis trio provides sunny set at Great Scott

By Marc Hirsh
Globe Correspondent / March 2, 2011

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“This song is about never getting jobs and forming a band and stuff,’’ said singer and keyboardist Alaina Moore midway through Tennis’s set at Great Scott on Monday. Not that anybody in the audience needed to be told that. The trio’s unfailingly sunny sound conjured up nothing so much as a beach party happening way off in the distance. Work simply doesn’t exist in the same orbit.

Even so, it’s a party that seemed perpetually just out of reach, no matter how long you walk along the shoreline toward it. Coated with reverb and sung in a murmur that largely blended into the haze, songs such as “Baltimore,’’ “Robin,’’ and “Marathon’’ all had beats frisky enough to twist to, even as you arc your neck forward to try to make out the rest of the details. Moore’s sharpest singing, and the lyrics that came through most distinctly, came with the “ooh-whoa-oh’’ choruses of “Long Boat Pass,’’ “South Carolina,’’ and the ebullient “Seafarer.’’

Built on a bedrock of midtempo surf-pop, Tennis’s songs tended to be brief and lack much in the way of variety. At times, it seemed like they may as well have been playing the same song over and over, with the exception of the closing “Hard Times,’’ where Patrick Riley’s aggressive guitar chording, James Barone’s simplified Motown drumbeat and Moore’s organ intersected at the point where surf begins shading into head music.

But while Tennis didn’t display any especial facility in its playing, it was still able to parlay that into a signature (if indistinct) sound that was pleasant enough. Better still, the band didn’t overstay its welcome, leaving a mere 40 minutes after taking the stage. Moore, Riley, and Barone seemed to know that modest pleasures should come in modest packages.

One-man opener Porcelain Raft was energized but aimless, with sheets of eternally echoing Cocteau Twins guitar and backing samples that offered a hint of Suicide. He was followed by the shrill and flavorless Holiday Shores, which occasionally switched from shamelessly aping Vampire Weekend to dipping into sweater psychedelia.

Marc Hirsh can be reached at

With Holiday Shores and Porcelain Raft
At: Great Scott, Monday