TOPS – VII Babies

The young, seasoned players comprising Montreal-based quintet TOPS play a funk-lite, sprightly vintage pop/rock release that wafts from the slow burn of timeless, lamenting and youthful placement. Ranked alongside Grimes and Blue Hawaii on the Arbutus Records imprint, TOPS is built from members of bands like Pat Jordache, Paula, Sugar Boys and others apart of the lively DIY art pop scene of Montreal. Feeling at home under the label’s current spell, TOPS introduce themselves with this recently released debut, Tender Opposites, a delicate and piecemeal collection that seems to spring together or hold still mostly at just the right moments.

Smooth and sweet, Tender opens with the clicked-along breeze of “Embrace” a track that comes together along many of the same, though more novice, lines of something like a Beach House tune might. A diarist’s lyrics, “Today’s no friend of mine… today’s not going to cry if I hang my head in sorrow…” come first. The act’s short debut shares further RIYL-comparison with Twin Sister, Tennis, a base-level Puro Instinct or Ariel Pink and the synth-obsessed lullabies of John Maus. Tame embracing of each instrument’s more known traits all under an umbrella of the more digestible moments of the 70s and 80s (John Hughes’ soundtracks included) the record’s best feature lands at the relationship of half of its band, the pairing of singer/keyboardist Jane Perry and guitarist David Carriere that together act as the err, tops to TOPS (I had to!). Fitting somewhere between Deerhoof’s Satomi Matsuzaki and the folk sprite shade of Joanna Newsom, Perry carries herself best, moving from high to low, across the bed of Carriere’s jingling, shimmering playing. It’s as much an enjoyable bond and it is an immense boon to the album overall.

While the aforementioned players pop up across the set in tunes like “Go Away,” (the chorus-to-coda moment is great) or “Turn Your Love Around,” the band has some out-of-orbit moments too. About a deceased person’s watchful presence, “Rings of Saturn” feels like an early 60s folk rock whisper; longer than anything else included, “Double Vision” drifts and sways for almost seven minutes; instrumental closer “TOPS theme” sounds like Ducktails playing inside a rainbow-colored Trapper Keeper and it’s the lively, shimmering build-to-springboard-release of standout jam “VII Babies” (hear it above) that likely makes the biggest statement of the entire Tender set. While the Montreal scene’s current flag is being waved by the hands of Claire Boucher and the outsider pop structures of her Grimes moniker, TOPS do make their mark with Tender (They’re labelmates and friends; Boucher called them “a bunch of weirdos, in the most affectionate way possible”). It’s not at all as kitchen-sink as Visions or as well-sourced as Headbangers In Ecstasy, but it does well in offering a familiar, manageable and exciting effort that also happens to be better and feel more, uh, hip in comparison to some of of the other aforementioned acts, to come out trumping the seemingly lackluster vanilla-flavored dream dumps of other delicate, girl-led bouncers- Your move Tennis.