Five Favourites: TOPS

Having just released their new album I Feel Alive, Montreal band TOPS create shimmering, atmospheric offerings, compellingly combining modern dream pop with shades of synth-driven ’80s soundscapes.

We think one of the best ways to get to know a band is by asking what music inspires them or influences their writing. We caught up with Jane Penny and David Carriere from TOPS, who have shared their “Five Favourites” – five albums that they’ve found particularly influential. Check out their choices below, and make sure you take a listen to the new album!

Jane’s Choices:

Berntholer – My Suitor
I was obsessed with this album’s title track when we were making the first TOPS record. They’re an avant-pop/post-punk band from Belgium. There’s something so provocative in the way Drita Kotaji sings English with a French accent. That and the minimalist production combine to make it into this catchy pop song, I love it. It’s a song I’ve been returning to a lot lately.

China Crisis – Flaunt The Imperfection
When David and I got together to make I Feel Alive we realised we’d both been obsessing over this band. He has this on vinyl and we’d listen to it while we made coffee before heading to the basement to work. I love the production, the feel is good, the songwriting is timeless. They’re a British new wave band, and yet this album is produced by Walter Becker from Steely Dan. I love all their records, but this one has a special place in my heart. Marta, who plays keyboard in TOPS, saw them live recently. I guess they still play shows! She said they sounded great.

Prefab Sprout – From Langley Park To Memphis 
Prefab were extremely formative for TOPS. When the band started we were brought together by a shared love of their record Steve McQueen. I chose From Langley Park to Memphis though, because it’s their most TOPsy record, and the most similar to our new album I Feel Alive. The first song is a bit of a stinker, but it also contains the words “Hot Dog, Jumping frog, Albuquerque”?! which is so entertaining. The second song ‘Cars & Girls’ is a certified hit. The production on this album is impeccable. The synths are super glossy, everything is light and groovy. It’s upbeat, great sound palette. ‘Nightingale’s’ is my personal favourite, especially this 12” remix. This is a record to put on when you’re hanging out at home and want something smooth and casual, with the occasional opportunity to giggle at the cheesiness of it.

David’s Choices:

Missing Persons – Spring Sessions M
Big fun, absolute slay masters bringing punk and glam energy to the mainstream with the proclivity of prog perfectionists. All fronted by fashion forward, proto-Gwen Stefani, truth teller Dale Bozzio. Just gets me going.

Gil Scott Heron and Brian Jackson – 1980
To me this is a retro-futuristic funk masterpiece! Extremely groovy tunes paired with Gil’s warmth and subdued delivery are the perfect setting for these songs about personal pressures, societal woes, and fears of the future.

Massive thanks to Jane and David for sharing their Five Favourites! I Feel Alive, the new album from TOPS, is out now via Musique TOPS.

FIVE FAVOURITES: People Club

Soulful vocals, snaking bass lines and an anti-misogynist premise mesh beautifully together on the new EP from Berlin-based indie soul group, People Club. Titled Kil Scott, the release centers around a fictional character (Scott) who is a benchmark for toxic masculinity, and the group use their music to dismantle his unsavory traits. 

Formed of Sarah Martin (lead vocals), Ray Sonder (bass, backing vocals), Saxon Gable (guitar, backing vocals), Pete Costello (keyboards, backing vocals) & Drew Deal (drums), People Club formed in 2018 after they all moved to Berlin in late 2017 from their respective countries (Australia, USA, UK, New Zealand).

We think one of the best ways to get to know a band is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with People Club to ask them about their “Five Favourites” – five songs that have influenced their song writing techniques. Check out their choices below, and scroll down to listen to their new EP at the end of this post.

 

1. 10cc – ‘I’m Not In Love’
This song is a complete one-off, it sounds nothing like anything else from 10CC or like anything else from 1975. The multi-track vocals are completely intoxicating, it’s like taking a bubble bath in liquid love. Stewart’s lyrics are incredibly touching too. Apparently, it’s an ode to his wife who had suggested he didn’t say ‘I love you’ enough. We like to think that the female vocal, “big boys don’t cry”, is his wife. Regardless, it’s a wonderfully intimate piece, indulgently orchestrated. Delicate in all the right ways.

2. Carole King – ‘It’s Too Late’
This song is a very special one for us, it sounds exactly like that place at that time; the summer of 1971 in LA – oozing with sunshine but hosting a reflective melancholy. King’s vocals are assertive and strong, and the irresistible poppy melody sits so tight with the light jazz arrangement. What a treasure, thanks Carole.

3. Bobbie Gentry – ‘Courtyard’
Can’t believe we only came across this gem this year, it’s the closing track of her 1968 album The Delta Sweete. It has a deeply psychedelic tinge to it, whereas the rest of the album is more straight-laced country. She must have been saving the best ’till last. It’s almost like a proto-youtube meditation video soundtrack (but way more decent sounding), completely immersive and supernatural. The lavish string section is exquisite and perfectly complements her vocals. The gently-delivered lyrics are very simple – she basically just describes a courtyard that is gifted to her by her presumed lover – provisionally unassuming but somehow it takes you to another euphoric dimension.

4. Gil-Scott Heron & Brian Jackson – ‘We Almost Lost Detroit’
We’ve all been in love with Gil for a long time, he’s a huge influence for us, he ticks all the boxes. This is probably our favourite song by him. He casually addresses the near-meltdown of a nuclear power plant near Detroit in the mid 60s and the moral ineptitude of the government in dealing with the disaster. As always with Gil, it’s a gripping tale of injustice, delivered with an icy poet’s cool. The arrangement is really delicious too, loads of juicy rhodes piano. Relaxed but incisive, brilliant stuff.

5. Donny Hathaway – ‘A Song for You’
You know a song is special when it sends shivers down your spine every single time you listen to it. Whenever we play this track, it’s met with silence, it’s impossible to talk over, impossible to not be instantly bewitched. It surely is one of the most profound love songs ever written. Words don’t do it justice. Divine.

Thank you to People Club for sharing their favourite songs with us. Listen to their new EP Kil Scott below. Catch them live in London at The Islington on 28th November.