Tennis reflect on their marriage with ‘Swimmer’.


Mutually Detrimental

The cover of Tennis’ fifth studio album, ‘Swimmer’.

Mason Montano, Music Editor

American indie pop band Tennis is a husband-and-wife duo consisting of lead vocalist and keyboardist Alaina Moore and guitarist Patrick Riley.

They formed the group shortly after marrying in 2010, and their debut album, Cape Dory, was released in January 2011 followed by five more projects, including two EPs — Small Sound (November 2013) and We Can Die Happy (November 2017) — and three full-length records — Young & Old (February 2012), Ritual In Repeat (September 2014), and Yours Conditionally (March 2017) — before the arrival of their fifth studio album, Swimmer, in early February.

Released on Valentine’s Day to commemorate their tenth wedding anniversary, Swimmer is an evolution of the duo’s signature adult contemporary sound and retro style that is heavily influenced by the music and pop culture of the late 1970s and early 80s. 

The album cover is reminiscent of American singer and actress Barabara Stresiand’s 1980 collaborative record with lead member of British-American pop group The Bee-Gees, Barry Gibb, Guilty, complete with big hair; pantsuits; and the clean-cut, husband-wife image that was indicative of 1980s America.

Prior to its release, Moore posted the following statement about the album via the Tennis newsletter:

Swimmer is a tour of the darkest time in our lives. But it is not a dark record. Named for the feeling of suspension and upendedness that characterized this period, it is the story of deep-rooted companionship strengthened by pain and loss. These songs carried us through our grief. It is us at our most vulnerable, so we kept a small footprint, recording everything ourselves in our home studio. I set out to describe the love I have come to know after ten years of marriage, when you can no longer remember your life before that person, when the spark of early attraction has been replaced by a gravitational pull.”

As stated in the letter, Swimmer is a personal, intimate record deeply-rooted in themes of love, family, and matrimony; with the solemn, sincere lyrical content juxtaposed by the cheery production, which is largely-based on piano and drums with smooth guitar riffs and synths added to the dreamy atmosphere.

Throughout the album, Moore addresses the struggles and emotional conflicts of maintaining a lifetime partnership. She described the second single, “Need Your Love”, as a “purge” of emotions, mainly anger, as she “[lets] go of unhealthy relationships” from the past while “trying to find healing without closure”. 

The production matches the intensity of the feelings conveyed through the lyrics with hard-hitting drums and aggressive piano chords that eventually begin to soften as the song progresses, reflecting Moore’s own personal growth as she finally allows herself to move on.

The third single, “How To Forgive”, continues this narrative by relating the process of forgiving people for their past transgressions while healing with the help of your partner, and the family sentiment presented by both songs is beautifully encapsulated in the title track, which was inspired by the day that Riley scattered his father’s ashes at sea and uses learning to swim as a metaphor for navigating life and love in an analogy that extends all across the tracklist and positions itself at the heart of the record.

Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley have had a plethora of both joyous and traumatic experiences during their decade of marriage, and with this album, they’ve closed one chapter and opened up another, using what they’ve learned from the first 10 years to help them with the next.

Swimmer is available now across all online and streaming platforms.

Stream Swimmer on Spotify: 

Watch the music video for “Need Your Love”: 

The members of Tennis, Alaina Moore (right) and Patrick Riley (left), in the music video for “Need Your Love”.