Tops - I Feel Alive

Tops - I Feel Alive

Regular price $ 26.00
"As of this writing, the pop quartet TOPS adorn the cover of Spotify’s “Montréal Chill” playlist. They look how I’d like to imagine myself looking when I’m chilling—pouty and photogenic, elegant and thin. Their music is a fitting soundtrack for the sort of glamorous melancholy that reliably passes for depth. TOPS’ songs are “big moods,” with their slow-blooming synthesizers and guitars and vocals from frontwoman Jane Penny, who always sounds somewhere between tender and disappointed.

But they begin their new album sounding ready to push through that malaise and on to something weirder. On opening track “Direct Sunlight,” prancing keyboard lines eventually give way to a cascade of voices cooing “sunshine” and a flute solo from Penny. This is TOPS at their most ambitious, showing their knack for taking references that might otherwise be dismissed for their cheesiness or chintz and finding the sincerity in the cliché. Here, and on the call-and-response “show me love” chorus on “Drowning in Paradise,” they show their aptitude for excavating half-remembered pop oddities. TOPS are at their best when they keep digging.

Elsewhere on the album, though, they’re just chilling. They’re as despondent and nostalgic as ever, but back to the kind of windswept indie rock that is their trademark. Their perennial reference point is Fleetwood Mac: “Witching Hour” has a churn worthy of Mick Fleetwood, and Penny sells her Nicksisms when she commits to them. But whereas on the best Fleetwood Mac tracks you can hear them stumble, baffled, into awkward truths, the wistfulness on I Feel Alive can seem reflexive rather than felt. Even the title track, with its vague verse imagery, undercuts its own nicely understated refrain. In these moments, the album threatens to collapse into a mood board."

-Adlan Jackson

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