TOPS were formed in Montreal when song-writing duo David Carriere and Jane Penny decided to join forces with drummer Riley Fleck. Since then they have become one of the most influential underground bands of the past decade, creating a space for sophisticated pop music in the indie world.
Their tendency to opt towards making straight-forward, stripped down, and honest recordings lets their pop songwriting shine out in the open. With a heart firmly attached to their sleeves, their songcraft delves into the emotional intricacy of personal relationships, asking questions about power and desire. Riley Fleck’s measured drumming and David Carriere’s trademark guitar licks mesh with Marta Cikojevic’s lush keyboards. All these elements work in tandem and in service of Jane Penny’s unmistakable, wistful voice.
The result of this mixture is a collection of four self-produced records and a handful of singles that cover a range of moods and a complex emotional realm while maintaining a groove and musicality. Soft rock-infused pop hits flow easily, surrounded by their signature moody ballads.
The artwork for TOPS' fourth LP, I Feel Alive, sets the tone for the music enclosed. Inspired by the work of photographer Thomas Ruff, TOPS' vocalist Jane Penney stares bare-faced down the lens – simple and un-posed, yet striking with starkness and vulnerability. The image captures the fraught nature of being alive, which the 11 tracks on the album explore. Penny's remarkably expressive voice is front and center. On this record more than any other, she sings with passion and energy, without sacrificing the honesty and introspection that gives her voice its depth. The songs cover a range of experiences but at its heart, I Feel Alive is a record about resilience, the ways we can grow from for our pain and the strength that comes from learning to stand on your own as an individual.
I Feel Alive is TOPS' fourth full-length, following 2017's Sugar At The Gate and follows singles "Echo of Dawn" and "Seven Minutes" from last year. Their trademark sound of beguiling melodies over soft-rock grooves, with touches of '80s sophisti-pop and a contemporary experimental palette is intact, but bolder and more expansive. The songs manage to be both immediately catchy and deceptively deep, with Penny's literary lyrics adding an extra dimension to the pure pop hooks. Satisfying yet far from predictable, this is a record to be savored, revealing itself slowly, gaining power and poignancy with each listen.