It’s not hard to tell that Luke and Tess Pretty of Tennyson are siblings. “What is he doing?” Tess asked the sold-out Great Scott crowd as Luke held up two cups, comparing them. “I wanna see which one is mine and which one is yours.” Luke explained, comparing the cups at a critical distance. Tess shook her head as the crowd laughed, and urged her brother, with the slightest hint of annoyance: “Ready?”

Without another word, they launched into the sunrise-themed opening of “7 A.M.,” a charming cut from their EP Like What. The Canadian duo has the unmistakable chemistry of a close brother and sister—sometimes annoyed with another, but always relaxed in each other’s presence. Tess, 18, plays the drums and sings backup vocals, while Luke, 20, writes the songs, plays keyboard and sings lead vocals. Their unmistakable brand of jazz-tinged electropop has caught the attention of Skrillex, who’s signed them to his OWLSA label, and M83, who recently had the duo open for them on their tour.

While Tennyson gave a nuanced performance, the exceptionally colorful set became oversaturated at points. Luke’s husky vocals were occasionally drowned out by busy instrumentals and Tess’ drumming was sometimes muddied by the PA system. Despite these minor problems, their performance was both impressive and endearing. Their interactions with the crowd between songs were brief, letting the music speak for itself.

The highlight of the evening was “Beautiful World,” a bittersweet ballad that lyrically paints soft and glowing landscape portraits in its verses before pivoting to a chorus filled with existential anxiety: “What for? What for? Out there everything’s clear.” Another highlight was “In One Piece,” an understated piano ballad adorned with electronic ambience and mellow harmonies.

While Luke was bent over samplers and keyboards for much of the show, stepped out from behind his samplers and keyboards to deliver a powerful vocal performance as the fluorescent lights flashed behind him. Another standout was instrumental “You’re Cute,” a warm blend of lush ambient textures and  soaring melody that turned the Allston crowd into a sea of bobbing heads.

There are few acts out there right now on par with Tennyson in terms of technical ability, songwriting acumen, and raw originality. While their energetic set indulged in a charming production, their Boston appearance confirmed that Luke and Tess are as forward-thinking as they are talented. Their unapologetically fun songs are wickedly smart, and defy traditional song structures and genre labeling while remaining accessible. Do yourself a favor and check out Tennyson the next time they come to town—the venue will probably be much bigger next time around.   

All in the Family: Tennyson
Pros
  • Incredible musicianship
  • Great length of set
  • Creative lighting setup
Cons
  • Weak vocals
  • Bad mixing muddied instrumentals
8.5Overall Score

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