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You'd probably be hard pushed to find anything in the sound of Tennis to suggest that they're a punk band, but they have spent the past four or so years railing against one of the most widely-held ideas in modern Western civilisation; that romantic and working relationships should be kept apart. Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore are married, but it hasn't slowed them down on the work front, with Ritual in Repeat their third full-length in four years; they've snuck an EP out in that time, too.

Just as impressive as their work ethic, though, is the pace at which they've progressed since their debut, 2011's Cape Dory; the brand of indie pop that they made their calling card with that record was notable for its delicacy, with Moore's honeyed vocals barely there a lot of the time and Riley's guitar playing decidedly minimalist; by the time they dropped Young & Old a little over a year later, there'd been a marked step up not only in the fidelity of the record, but in the tightness of the songwriting, too. On Ritual in Repeat - their first album for two and a half years - they've again retooled their approach; firstly, the slew of producers involved is impressively heavyweight, with Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney retained from Young & Old for a handful of tracks and sharing duty with Spoon sticksman Jim Eno and the man who, for my money, is perhaps the finest producer of indie pop currently operating, Richard Swift of The Shins.

The other new slant for the band on Ritual in Repeat is that they're approaching their songwriting in a manner that doesn't really fit with the sun-drenched, laid-back sound of their first album or the more urgent, tauter feel of their second; instead, Moore is finally provided with the opportunity to put her vocals front and centre. They're crisp and polished throughout, and she sounds as if she's running through a lap of her own touchpoints from pop history as she's doing so; 'Never Work for Free' borders on pop-rock, 'Needle and a Knife' sounds like one of Stevie Nicks' country-tinged solo excursions, and the quickfire ballad 'Wounded Heart' has more than just a touch of Joni Mitchell about it.

Elsewhere, there's a concerted effort to expand the sonic palette beyond what underscored the past couple of albums; the guitar playing is subtle and intelligent on the hushed 'Timothy', whilst 'Solar on the Rise' combines chiming, picked lines with some lightly scuzzy feedback to stirring effect. As with everything Tennis have done to date, it still sounds very light; the percussion, as usual, is kept unobtrusive, and Moore's vocals never threaten to bubble over into a snarl; you can't help but wonder what they might sound like with the shackles off, but perhaps that's to miss the point. To carve out your own identity, gentle or otherwise, is quite the challenge in an indie pop market over-saturated with bands that are taking all of their cues from decades gone by; Ritual in Repeat only serves to reinforce Tennis'.

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