I didn't know a whole lot about this band TOPS, from Montreal other than Alelier Ciseaux has been obsessed with them lately, putting out their full length, Tender Opposites (which I think is sold out from AC) and now they put out this seven inch with a track, "Diamond Look" I definitely remember thanks to the distinctive voice of vocalist Jane Penny. It's an original sound, sort of vague Stereolab reference happening here…with some of those weird rhythms built out of tired old casio sounds that TOPS then elevate to something a lot more interesting. There's aspects of classic '70s psych as well in the approach and instrumentation, clearly students of the original sources, but quickly moving past it.
"Diamond Look" on the A-Side, reminded me of something from Craft Spells..that same composite, historic facing sound, lodged right in the '80s. A simultaneously nostalgic and contemporary feel...a basic jangle on the guitar and synths that sound like the early days of being their own futuristic instrument, when they were into failing miserably in emulating strings or brass. It's Jane's vocal then that takes this into an unrecognizable place from these deliberately dated elements. Singing about diamonds with a Janis Joplin sort of abandon…that unselfconscious style taking precedence over classical training. Not that she isn't clearly a talented vocalist that could go in any direction, but the emotion gets the better of her...and of course that makes for a better track. It's a kind of passionate jazz delivery that wouldn't normally be paired with this indie, new wave style, but that's why you'll probably put this on again.
"Easy Friends" showcases even more of Jane's vocal, going for a '60s soft, soul pop sound, but again, you only catch hints of their influences and styles in indirect ways. They have a completely unusual sound that's a hybrid of fringe indie and and adult jazz radio station without ever coming off as something pretentious or too self aware. The synth sounds are obvious, way up in the front of the mix….they aren't trying to hide anything and these the unusual rhythms can even sound like some kind of Police connection with their hints at reggae-ish timings. An unusual combination that's sincere right from the beginning in Jane's unique vocal, and her phrasing of lyrics in a sort of Tom Waits way...every word having that possibility to change meaning based on her subtle emphasis.
Their Tender Opposites record should be rereleased soon and check the list of distro's for where you can grab this in the US, otherwise order one with the intl shipping....from Atelier Ciseaux Records.
TOPS : DIAMOND LOOK/ EASY FRIENDS - 7' (white)
Since our vinyl version has run out, Arbutus (who put out the record on CD and cassette in North America) decided to release a new edition this fall with new packaging and a few surprises (October 1st in UK/EU).
This "all-white" 7' includes one of the songs from the album, "Diamond Look", that we never get tired of, and also the unreleased "Easy Friends".
"The most beautiful stories are never the ones we make up," - just one of the confessions revealed to us in "Tender Opposites", the first album by Montreal band TOPS (made up of Silly Kissers members, Pat Jordache, etc.) Eight tracks of melodic and melancholy pop, lit up by the voice of Jane Penny.
A past that gets longer, a future that gets cut short. What does it matter, since everybody's still dancing. Tenderly opposed, or something like that."