The first time I ever saw Tennyson live was in 2015 at the Roxy in Los Angeles. This was of course after avidly following the young duo from Montreal online for what felt like quite some time, despite them having released only a handful of singles at the time, including the till this day mesmerizing and joyous “With You” and “Lay-by.” Needless to say, Tennyson had me hooked from first listen, and their live show only served to deepen this fact. Luke and Tess, the brother and sister behind Tennyson, presented a show emanating a sense of genuine and unmatched love for their craft. Luke jumped around the keys goading his sister to keep up as Tess matched this spirit on drums in spades in a showing of genuine sibling affectation and playfulness for what they were actively making together. Since that show, the now OWSLA-signed duo has continually honed and sharpened their craft over a series of releases. However, their latest outing, the wonderfully titled Uh Oh! EP, sees Tennyson taking yet another step forward in their consistent musical evolution without losing an ounce of the overflowing sense of wonderment that made them such a captivating act in the first place.
Uh Oh! feels like the embodiment of a child’s hand drawings and daydreams come to life. The entirety of Uh Oh! is abound with some of the most experimental production in an electronic pop piece to date, but at no time does it ever feel alienating. Indeed, this is where Tennyson has always shined, utilizing their natural tendency to delve into improvised sounding riffs and patterns with ease, while still maintaining a level of cohesive balance. For instance, take the undeniably infectious “Pancake Feet” that starts off with squeaks of charming production before going into a tropical, almost electronic bossa nova interlude, before once again switching things up in a final surge leading into what can only be described as an outburst of electronic free jazz, if such a thing were to exist. Even at their most nonsensical, Tennyson’s music finds a way to be unquestionably charming, hard to ignore, and even harder to put down.
To try and find a nice few words to neatly categorize Tennyson and their Uh Oh! EP into one succinct, final statement feels like a disservice, as Uh Oh! is a project that continually takes on new life with each repeated listen. Each new listen brings forth a greater sense of appreciation for the evident amount of work put behind this project, from noting the interesting and unconventional instrumentation patterns to the newfound samples, such as the bird cries and childlike squeals seemingly hidden throughout. If one however were to try and find a few final words to describe Tennyson’s unique sound, it may very well be the ethos of free jazz playfully meeting and jumping around the worlds of electronic and pop. And when it comes to Uh Oh! itself, the childlike enchantment imbued in every aspect of Uh Oh!’s being, from the West Los Angeles Children’s Choir in “Cry Bird” to the fantastical cover art, speaks more freely and jubilantly than any words imaginable.
Listen to Tennyson’s Uh Oh! EP below: