Just over a decade ago, Japanese indie-pop duo Tenniscoats recorded »Papa's Ear« (2012) and »Tan-Tan Therapy« (2007), two albums made with musical and production help from Swedish post-rock/folk trio Tape. Originally released on Häpna, they are beautiful documents of the exploratory music made by a close-knit collective of musicians, fully at ease with each other, playing songs written by Tenniscoats and arranging them in gentle and generous ways. Released during a particularly productive time for Tenniscoats – during the late ‘00s and early ‘10s, they would also collaborate with Jad Fair, The Pastels, Secai and Pastacas – they have, however, never been available on vinyl. In collaboration with Alien Transistor, Morr Music is now reissuing these albums both digitally and on double vinyl, with extra tracks.
This reissue mini-series starts with »Papa’s Ear«. The second album from this expanded line-up of Tenniscoats, you can hear the musicians are immediately comfortable in each other’s presence, and they’ve almost intuitively understood what they can offer to one another. Saya and Ueno of Tenniscoats bring their magical, gentle folk-pop sensibility, and their winning way with straightforward, yet lush melodies. Johan Berthling, along with fellow Tape member Tomas Hallonsten, plus guests Fredrik Ljungkvist, Lars Skoglund, Andreas Söderstrom and Andreas Werlin, all generous and creative presences in the Swedish jazz underground, shades in the songs with endlessly inventive arrangements, highlighting the warmth and curiosity at the core of the Tenniscoats’ aesthetic – sometimes taking the songs in unexpected directions, other times pillowing the melodies with the softest of brushstrokes and the kindest of tones.
»Papa’s Ear« includes some of Tenniscoats’ most memorable songs. »Papaya« is a lustrous dreamland of a song, with the Swedish musicians singing ‘pa-pa-ya’ as an enchanted tattoo, while Saya’s piano and melodica clank and huff out, further expanding the song’s horizon. It’s followed by the spindly and mysterious »Sappolondon«, where drums and double-bass shuffle and pulse under weeping accordion and bittersweet clarinet. Saya’s voice sighs into the frame while the musicians breathe lungfuls of sweet drones and flick glittering countermelodies across the song’s surface. It reminds a little of the wild kindness of Movietone, or the regal charm of Carla Bley’s compositions.
Elsewhere, you can hear Tape and their friends embracing the freedom offered by the songs of Tenniscoats: see, for example, the glistening electronics in »På floden«, like a keyboard conducting a music box on a distant planet; or the descending phrase for winds on »Sabaku«, dovetailing beautifully into a creek of moon-lit texturology. The double-LP ends with two extra tracks, drawn from the 2008 Tenniscoats/Tape split single, also released by Häpna., »Lutie Lutie« is a sweet delight, driven by a clacking drum machine, the Tenniscoats duo joined by Hallonsten on glockenspiel and synthesizer, and special guest, Japanese indie-pop legend Kazumi Nikaido, as choir. »Come Maddalena« rounds off the set, a brooding cover of an Ennio Morricone tune, the music by Tape, the vocals by Tenniscoats and Nikaido. Open-hearted and full of puckish spirit, »Papa’s Ear« is an album of great tenderness and warm friendship.