Better than Vivian Girls, and Partyline preceded them by at least a couple years. The girls in Partyline sound as if they enjoy music, playing music, listening to music, making music, as opposed to the dour fuck-offish attitude projected by Vivian Girls. I like love songs played with pace and feeling, and X-Hearts is nothing if not a quick burst of feeling. Honest declarations! No messing around. Instead of coy texts, it's all eye contact and earnestness, which is nice every once in a while. Conversation. Mispronunciation. Clumsiness. Funny faces.
I think I love Tennis! And my secondary feeling about that primary feeling is one of disbelief. Look, I never planned for this to happen. My slow exposure to this band's music has happened through the sneakiness of Sirius radio and the cunning of DJ-ing friends. I believe I had heard this song four or five times before I consciously 'heard' it, if that makes any sense. Like, I had perceived it on the radio and felt favorably disposed towards it, but had never made the effort to actually figure out who it was. Then, on the sixth or whateverth hearing, I saw that it was Tennis! Who knew they were capable of such feats. I did not, obviously. This has the same shuffling charm and total coquetry as "Origins," but it's a little lighter, a little softer.
How can you not love this song? I've loved it for almost six years. I was introduced to it by Ian of (the now-defunct, I guess) Popsheep, who said to me, in an email, something close to the following: "Rock Bottom Riser is like a nice daydream version of what my nightmares of drowning in the Columbia River were like."
There has always been a part of me that wondered whether Bill Callahan was making a slight reference to Tolkien and Gollum with that line, "I saw a gold ring/at the bottom of the river/glinting/at my foolish heart/oh my foolish heart/had to go diving/diving, diving, diving/into the murk." But it seems like it's just a coincidence. This song is both more and less heartbreaking than Gollum's terrible family history.
I remember actual walks around an actual neighborhood, she remembers drinking actual wine cooler from an actual Bartles & James bottle. I remember what felt like a thousand hours of sweaty hand-holding, and she remembers none. She remembers meeting at the block party, everyone else was drunk, I remember the hamburgers from that night. I remember thinking on twelve occasions that she was the worst, and she remembers thinking that my hair needed to be cut, soon and badly and by someone with great skill. It wasn't going out, it was just long walks at night. We might as well have been teens at the very start of the twentieth century.
After watching The Descendants and thinking some hard thoughts about Hawaii, I was reminded of the Thieves of Kailua album and how much I love it. The title track to that album, which I wrote about a while ago (on the euthanized version of this blog), is easily one of my favorite songs of the past ten years--I can and do listen to that song dozens of times in a row when I hit upon it. And "On the Waikiki" is the sweet little song that leads right into "Thieves of Kailua." If you were an ungenerous critic, incapable of love, you might say this song featured something like the re-animated spirit of the Beach Boys' "Kokomo," but you would be majestically wrong. "On the Waikiki" comes nowhere close to the perverse wave-fucking of "Kokomo," and is instead breezy ukulele pop, where Jason Holstrom (the man behind the project) sings about strolling on the Honauma Bay and all the peaceful/idyllic aspects of his trip, which nicely sets up the scene where the titular thieves show up and steal his wallet (in the next song). I feel like this album should be more widely known than it is. If I were more industrious, or smarter, I would write a small chapbook about "The Thieves of Kailua" and print it on thin sheets of Koa wood, then pay for the project after the fact through a Kickstarter which offered only incentives like, "I will carve you a pile of artisan mulch," or "I will pre-chew 10 oz. of gum for your convenience (you provide the gum)." No one wants that, so buy this album.