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Cape Dory

[Fat Possum; 2011]

By ; January 24, 2011 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Boy meets girl in a philosophy class. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy and girl begin dating. Boy and girl materialize a dream and sail the Atlantic before getting married aboard the same boat that they saved rigorously for over the course of four years. Boy and girl return home and accumulate their memories into song and live happily ever after.

Seems perfect, huh? That’s because it is. Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, two kids from Colorado who met within the walls of a University of Colorado Denver classroom, have written an album that swiftly topples walls of any kind with a story fit to print. Cape Dory is quite literally a sonic map of their seafaring using the help of some worn but still satisfying pop sounds, and while their style may be familiar, their unique narrative is what propels this music above the endless ocean of “blog bands” that are making variable waves around them. This record, however, not only faithfully chronicles this capricious sailing escapade, but it speaks of what is found throughout its duration. Dating and falling in love in college is easy, but how to approach the world around you after leaving the friendly confines of campus is one of life’s greatest challenges – especially now, when the economy is end over end and a college degree doesn’t guarantee you anything. So while we are happily taken on a whimsical voyage throughout this LP, it is a voyage with an important purpose, and one that continues on.

Now this album, much like the couple’s voyage, is rather short. As previously mentioned, these ten tracks are positively ripe with Phil Spector influence, but the band is certainly not shying away from their inspirations in any fashion, and the sub-three minute run time for most of the songs here reflect that. The formula – find a catchy sound to pin to for a bit before letting it drift away rather than driving it into the ground – is a welcome one and it is the main source behind the many comparisons to such modern beach pop conjurers as Best Coast. But in a recent article from the Denver Post, Patrick insists that, “Yeah, our music sounds like that, but it’s supposed to be a derivative of something else,” and that “something else” certainly takes shape over the course of their first full-length. Rather than glazing over their music with the sun, the band’s compositions sparkle in an undiscovered twilight, narrowly escaping being too “same-y” and illuminating itself piece by piece in an overall successful effort to remain fresh.

The band’s musicianship cannot be diminished due to their chosen style, though, as they are both seasoned at their craft. Patrick’s minimal melodies are drizzled very well throughout each song and really add character to this small three-piece sound. Classically-trained on the keys, Moore is picture perfect in her complements to the reverb-heavy rhythms from Riley’s guitar, and with the help of some great production, the blend between the two is really fantastic. EP highlights “Marathon,” “South Carolina” and “Baltimore” receive minor improvements and continue to be the band’s best tracks, but newcomers such as the opener “Take Me Somewhere” and the patient “Bimini Bay” are on the same, well, boat. Alaina’s vocals, however unspectacular, are serviceable for their own sound, and the tinge of her vibrato before it gets lost in the foamy collision between all three instruments really speaks to Tennis’s collective strength in their songwriting.

Still, beneath all of her oohs and la la, is a dark-blue and starry expedition, a true passion for two musicians that really just permeates straight through the glittering guitars and infectious, harmonized choruses. The attention to the details of their surroundings gives the record a sort of voyeuristic feel – as if we’re on the boat with them as they make multiple stops down the east coast of the United States. But all of these references to geography are ultimately eclipsed by the motif of a love that continues to bud, and the LP’s closer, “Waterbirds” is a real, stripped down look into a true relationship, “When you kiss me, you really kiss me…This is all that we need.”

And that is the true essence of love, isn’t it? The purity in truly needing nothing else but your significant other is rare, but the strength of the bond that these two share is difficult to cheapen. Eventually, though, the voyage had to end, (apparently fourteen months shorter than planned) and the two needed jobs like most college graduates pushing their way up the ladder – or in this case, just trying to find a ladder to climb. Luckily for us, they picked up instruments and expressed their love for each other, the sea, and their post-college angst with their eyes not yet set on suits and ties, but another go at the Atlantic.


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