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Tenniscoats “Papa’s Ear”

by Shawn Despres

Special To The Japan Times

Tokyo’s Tenniscoats have certainly kept busy over the last nine months. In April, the indie-pop duo of multi-instrumentalists Takashi Ueno and Saya (who goes by only her first name) released their “Tokinouta” disc and in October they issued “Enjoy Your Life,” a collaborative effort with American lo-fi art-rocker Jad Fair.

As if that wasn’t enough new material for 2011, in late December Tenniscoats’ “Papa’s Ear” album also surfaced. “Papa’s Ear” was recorded in Stockholm, and while not billed as a proper collaboration, Tenniscoats are backed by Swedish folktronica act Tape on the offering. The two bands have toured together in Japan and Europe, and Tape previously served as session players on Tenniscoats’ critically praised “Tan-Tan Therapy” full-length in 2007.

On “Papa’s Ears,” Tenniscoats and friends are at their best on the tracks “The Bottom of the Air” and “Papaya.” Playing out like an enchanting lullaby, the simple orchestral pop of “The Bottom of the Air” has a definite childlike feel that is heightened by Saya’s innocent vocals. “Papaya” features melodica, drums and a little Spanish-flavored guitar noodling from Ueno. Its whimsical melody and infectious, sing-a-long chorus make it the most upbeat, fun number on the album.

Filled with a sense of longing, Saya’s fragile singing dominates the beautiful, introspective “Airplane,” while well-crafted songs such as “New Seasons Dead” and “Desert” are built around warm, subtle instrumentation. All three tracks would make for good late-night listens during these frosty winter months.