My interest in this album started back in Scotland in 2007 during the Triptych festival. Indie senpai The Pastels were joined onstage by Saya and Takashi from Tenniscoats and the music they played captivated the audience until an amplifier blew and stopped the show. I stocked up on Tenniscoats albums – of which there are many, under various guises – and became a firm fan. Periodically tantalising comments would appear online about a proposed record collaboration between the two bands. Indie otaku waited with baited breath and increasing impatience until suddenly, this summer, Geographic and Domino Records announced the release of Two Sunsets, preceded by the single Vivid Youth. And boy was it worth the wait. From the fuzzy bass, angelic voices and ethereal percussion of the opening track Tokyo Glasgow through to the late summer melancholy of the marvellously titled Start Slowly So We Sound Like A Loch, this is a piece of pure indie pop genius. Tenniscoats’ avant pop sound melds perfectly with The Pastels influential brand of guitar pop, producing a sound both fragile and uplifting. Trailing single Vivid Youth set the tone for the album – laid back, 60s tinged melodies, sensual vocals and the feel of a summer evening with friends at the water’s edge, content, at peace.
All this was captured perfectly in Blair Young’s nostalgia-tinged video, which you can find on youtube and Pastel’s myspace. Saya herself described the sound as “Pastels underneath, sounding beautiful like a big cloud, with Tenniscoats flying over”. Stand out tracks include Song For A Friend, the simply titled eulogy for DJ Klock, who committed suicide in 2007. Part celebration of life, part mourning of passing; the woodwind mixing through male and female voices is quietly beautiful. Also worth a mention is About You, a campfire retake of The Jesus & Mary Chain song which contains the power of the original within a softer instrumentation. This is an album built around the haiku aesthetic, where less is more, and silence can speak louder than mere words ever could. While Stephen and Katrina sing in English, Saya slips effortlessly between English and Japanese, highlighting the mixing of cultures, the harmony of influences this album and its title encapsulates. Music speaks for itself and vocals are one facet of that language. The opening track Tokyo Glasgow is instrumental. Other lyrics are one or two lines repeated. Pop’s obsession with words is abandoned here in favour of unity, equality of sound.
Tenniscoats are out on the fringes of music, playing with the boundaries and the spaces. They ignore the rules of song writing, esteeming internal logic and instinct in their place. While the charts are filled with an endless cycle of unimaginative rehashing, here is an album that shows a new direction, a bravery, searching for originality and honesty, music as art and language rather than the consumable commodity so many view it as. The two bands have recently played some shows together in Scotland, but there are no plans in place for a joint tour of Japan. The album Two Sunsets and single Vivid Youth are out now online and in most record shops.