Photo by Maya Fuhr
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.
TOPS are central to the Arbutus Records community. Tender Opposites is the band’s first full length release, written and recorded by the group themselves(Jane Penny, David Carriere, Riley Fleck, and Thom Gillies) at Montreal’s La Brique, the loft venue that serves as the creative hub for the label, a block from where all of current Arbutus roster met.