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“Spawned from an arty, punk at heart utopia in Montreal (loft space La Brique – also creative home to the impossibly brilliant Grimes, Doldrums, Blue Hawaii and Sean Nicholas Savage), TOPS are sickeningly hip and pretty with it. But it’s hard to hate them when they make pop as gorgeous as this. Tender Opposites sits rather sublimely in the eerily, experimental sweet spot between Veronica Falls and Stereolab. It combines the gorgeous vocals of lead singer Jane Penny (think Isobel Campbell with a glint in her eye) and the kind of scratchy, understated delivery and playful, off-kilter arrangements that draw you in from the first listen.” - BBC Music
TOPS is a Montreal based four-piece, having each played in multiple groups (Pat Jordache, Paula, Hammond-Ri, Silly Kissers, Sugar Boys etc.), they are band entrenched in the local community that makes music found nowhere else in or outside Montreal.
Tender Opposites is the band’s first full length release. It was recorded and reworked several times by the band at La Brique, the loft venue which serves as the creative hub for Arbutus Records, and an extension of the famed Lab Synthèse where they met. The resulting songs have a complexity that slips easily into the shadows of the moods that they create – alternating between melancholic visions of the future and ecstatic fantasies that overcome them.
The persona that emerges belongs to vocalist Jane Penny. Her unique tone is coupled with a strength of perspective, a rebellious attitude that betrays her girlish appearance. They share the melodic dimension with her soft synth lines and David Carriere’s sharp guitar work; all of which is supported by a steady and attentive rhythm section of bassist Thom Gillies and drummer Riley Fleck.
Tender Opposites can be considered TOPS’s self nomination into the soft rock cannon, for while it pay homage to both past greats such as Fleetwood Mac, and Romeo Void and contemporaries like Ariel Pink and Twin Sister, it steers clear of a dependency on nostalgic revival or fleeting trends.
TOPS form precious balances. They create emotionally powerful sonic experiences with a contemporary understanding of the classic song structures that have guided pop music since the beginning. A close listen will reveal their assurance as musicians, but their experience derives from playing in warehouse lofts rather than going to school. There is a place for each note in their songs. Complexity disappears behind a veil of familiarity.
The four members of TOPS wander through pop music’s capacious past and, though comparisons can be made to yesterday, no clear lineage to a single influence can be drawn. Their broad musical vocabulary places them somewhere alongside contemporary bands who, taking the best aspects of pop music and the organic approach that comes from playing together, makes something that sounds fresh; distilling influences into something that is innovative in the present moment.
Their sound is equally shaped by a deep rooted communication between each member. Jane Penny’s lyrics and vocal melodies lead guitar parts, guitar parts are swept up by bass lines, and rhythmic phrases are mimicked by the drums. Because their sound comes from collaboration rather than effects or recording techniques, the production is bare and confidently minimal.