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All Aboard!

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Album Review

Looking over a fact sheet about long-running Japanese duo Tenniscoats, the first thing one notices is their propensity for collaboration. While cultivating their own subdued, hypnotic sound based in equal parts twee pop and pastoral post-rock, the pair has rubbed elbows with everyone from the Pastels to Deerhoof to LSD-March, taking their music into a vast array of different head spaces and making it difficult to pigeonhole. All Aboard! is the culmination of years of annual recording sessions with drummer Ikuro Takahashi, a prized player in Japan's underground network known for his work with high-energy noise blasters like High Rise and Fushitsusha, as well as a plethora of others. Recorded between 2005 and 2009, this set of songs finds Tenniscoats taking their strange mix of playful twee and hushed indie pop into a more psychedelic zone, pushed into a rock mode by the mere presence of a drummer, usually absent from their recordings. Songs like "Stones in the Boot" brim over with acidic delay-bathed guitars and metered rock tempos from Takahashi, spinning a psychedelic drone backdrop for vocalist Saya's menaced delivery and random, slithering saxophone lines. The wah-wah funk of "Shinjitsu Pan" takes on an almost Neu!-informed flavor with its pulsing drums and controlled guitar fervor. The songs on All Aboard! never quite reach the fever pitch of any of their psychedelic or Krautrock influences. Instead, a patient and fluttering quality touches everything, making even the most freaked out moments contained, forgiving freakouts instead of paranoid meltdowns. The piecemeal recording process may have added to the relaxed feel and languid pacing of the record. The rolling, self-affirmed chamber rock of "Simple Re" washes by like gentle waves, out-of-tune instruments or bum guitar notes sounding acceptable or even necessary as part of the song's peaceful bumble. Possibly because it took almost seven years to deliver, All Aboard! lacks some of the cohesion of other Tenniscoats material, and some of the songs linger a little too long or run out of gas before they reach a recognizable summit. While it's not their strongest or most sure-footed material, the warmth and curiosity that characterize most of their records is intact, and even poking around in some uncharted waters with the inclusion of Takahashi's understated drums ticking the album along. By the time the almost kid-friendly closer "20 Arms" reaches it's bilingual spoken word bit about a journey at sea, All Aboard! has traveled from acid rock ballads to wonderstruck children's tunes in a way so organic it's hard to notice.


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Tenniscoats are a Japanese indie pop duo comprised of Saya (lead vocals) and Takashi Ueno (guitar, saxophone). With the help of an ever-shifting lineup of backing musicians (the likes of which have included LSD-March, Eddie Marcon, Secai, Popo, Saibou Bungaku, Tim Barnes, and Tetsuya Umeda), the Uneos make the kind of gentle, willowy, cerebral tunes that bring to mind a host of Japanese indie pop acts, particularly Four Bonjour's Parties and Lullatone, as well as artists like Bobby Baby and Rose...
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All Aboard!, Tenniscoats
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