Release Date: Sep 2, 2014
Record label: Arbutus Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic
Thoughtful electronica is available in abundance right now. Sometimes, it can even be a bit too thoughtful - which is why it’s great to stumble upon a band who are able to marry ethereal, star-gazing textures with a playful, pop sensibility. Enter TOPS, who are returning with their second album. Marinated in the waters of 80s chart-toppers, Picture You Staring feels strangely familiar.
Somehow, Montreal’s TOPS take the trashiest moments in music and make them actually rather good. They did it on debut record ‘Tender Opposites’, a record that was indebted to the cheesiest elements of the 80s, yet elevated everything into excellence. From the misty-eyed and succinctly sweet pop of standout ‘Diamond Look’ to the funky balladry of ‘Turn Your Love Around’, TOPS were actually turning tacky around; creating something special out of everything we’d all previously dismissed as incredibly irritating.
TOPS come from a crew of Montreal-based creative types who collectively cobbled themselves together through loose affiliations with the Artbus Records label and the warehouse studio/performance space where many of the bands and artists of the scene experiment with their boundary-pushing ideas. While some of the most visible output connected to this particular sect of Montreal music-makers came in the form of Grimes' quirky electro pop and Blue Hawaii's melancholic indie minimalism, lesser-known players like Doldrums, Sean Nicholas Savage, and TOPS tapped into this strange collective energy with equally interesting and often far stranger results. With their second album, Picture You Staring, TOPS continue the muted, home-recorded take on jazzy sophisti-pop they began on 2012’s Tender Opposites.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. The definite article is dead. Long is the list of bands that have shed the unfortunate demonstrative, choosing rather to defer to the ideal, unabashed celebration of the object, the pure title. TOPS are not 'At The Top', nor are they 'The Top Choice' or the kind of top that spins.
Way To Be Loved is the opening track on Picture You Staring, the second LP from Montreal’s TOPS. The song is a perfect introduction and will likely be the song that draws people to the album and band in general. It has a percussive, intriguing vibe from its first few seconds. Its groove is retro, but not rooted enough in any particular era to qualify it as a throwback.
opinion byBRENDAN FRANK TOPS, Picture You Staring TOPS may share a label with the likes of Braids, Grimes and Majical Cloudz, but unlike those more forward-thinking acts, they draw inspiration from a long-gone era. Their sophomore effort is a slightly anemic take on disco-flecked art pop, drawing to mind the tattered DIY ethic of Ariel Pink, the happy-go-lucky outlook of Tennis, and the stylish slow-motion vignettes of Warpaint. Picture You Staring is agreeable enough to listen to, and the production, executed by the band themselves, is nuanced enough that you will pick up new details every time you listen.