TOPS - I Feel Alive Music Album Reviews

At their best, this Montreal quartet locate the aching sincerity in pop clichés.

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.

But sometimes it’s okay to be sad for no reason at all. The title of “Ballads and Sad Movies” may prompt eye rolls, but it’s the song in which I Feel Alive clicks into place. When Penny wails, at the song’s climax, that she doesn’t know who she is anymore, the familiarity and comfort of nostalgia is ruptured, exposing the hopelessness and confusion beneath. Self-mythologizing is a survival strategy, and sometimes you’ve just got to indulge yourself if you’re going to stay sane. And cliché as the spoken-word French interludes and lyrics about missing-something-but-not-knowing-what may be, TOPS’ songwriting remains intuitive and rewarding when the band is firing on all cylinders, validating our tendency to mythologize our own petty tragedies.


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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
TOPS - I Feel Alive Music Album Reviews TOPS - I Feel Alive Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, April 14, 2020 Rating: 5

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