The label that brought us Grimes births another bewitching talent.
Camilla Pia 2012
Spawned from an arty, punk at heart utopia in Montreal (loft space La Brique – also creative home to the impossibly brilliant Grimes, Doldrums, Blue Hawaii and Sean Nicholas Savage), TOPS are sickeningly hip and pretty with it. But it’s hard to hate them when they make pop as gorgeous as this.
Tender Opposites sits rather sublimely in the eerily, experimental sweet spot between Veronica Falls and Stereolab. It combines the gorgeous vocals of lead singer Jane Penny (think Isobel Campbell with a glint in her eye) and the kind of scratchy, understated delivery and playful, off-kilter arrangements that draw you in from the first listen.
And there’s just enough creepiness to counterbalance the cute before a plethora of pin-sharp, smart melodies start to reveal themselves. Evening and Diamond Look are two easy, early highlights, and the sparse beauty of She’s So Bad hooks you in like the kind of intoxicating, weird creature the Prometheus crew might have been beguiled by before it skinned them alive.
Less unsettling, but just as enchanting, are the spiky drums and spidery riffs of VII Babies and its more stroppy sister Go Away, while Rings of Saturn soothes before the laidback melancholy of Easy Friends hauls you through the emotional wringer. Here, Penny croons: “Wake up, nobody’s waiting for you.”
The lo-fi lounge disco shimmy of Turn Your Love Around is a more upbeat affair, building to a punchy and rhythmic climax that makes for the noisiest moment on Tender Opposites. This more raucous side of TOPS is just as captivating as their by now more familiar calm, if not even more so.
It’s definitely a subtle magic TOPS weave here, and like all the best records, Tender Opposites rewards repeated spins. While they’re hardly re-inventing the wheel with their female-fronted, woozy ditties, there’s something about these songs that will tempt you back time and time again.