The Baltimore House 43 King William Street
By Maya Amoah
The transcendent dreaminess of TOPS is still wafting in the air, weeks after the band graced the city with their lovely presence at Baltimore House in the beginning of March. TOPS makes the kind of music that tends to have that effect on people. It’s the kind that eagerly awaits for your arrival from a long day. Exasperated, you dim the lights, put on their record and ease into a comfy chair, allowing the sweet melodies into your eardrums and the day’s trials to evaporate into irrelevance. It’s the kind of music that can easily be the theme to accidentally falling in love at a bar and captures the magic of innocence as a young adult; dancing in the street alone and just simply being.
Originally from Montreal, TOPS first got together in 2011 after the disbandment of synth-pop band Silly Kissers, a group that included 3 of the members and was also under Canadian label Arbutus Records. TOPS started gaining positive attention and reviews after releasing debut album Tender Opposites in 2012, succesfully titled 8th best album of the year by music blog Gorilla vs Bear. In 2014, TOPS released their second record Picture You Staring and any ambivalence of the band’s incredible potential was immediately silenced.
So indubitably, their sold out show at Baltimore House was one for the books. With killer opening acts Aron D’Alesio, Tasseomancy and Hamilton’s own electrifying New Hands to set the mood, you couldn’t help but catch the contagious positive energies like a common cold. TOPS begins their set and suddenly something comes over you and you’re already in a trance. Jesus Christ, they’re even better live.
The band rides through the waves of Picture you Staring, each member flawlessly grooving their poppier, upbeat tracks like “Change of Heart” and “Superstition Future,” then Jane Penny timidly begs the crowd to answer, “Is that the way you want to be loveddddd?” Riley Fleck slows his pace on the drums and a tinge of melancholy is heard in Jane’s sugary voice for the softer, sleepier tunes. I catch my breath and steal a glance at the audience beside me. Were they also feeling this? The magical sounds of “All the People Sleep” had reverberated through the crowd and they too were infected by this mysterious aura, eyes transfixed on Jane’s alluring freckled complexion as she played the keyboard, everyone simultaneously dancing to whatever made sense.
As the show came to a close, the crowd snapped back into the reality and blahs of life, the evening now a dazzling, photographic memory. Jane was also as sweet as her voice, thanking those who thanked her as she doodled little hearts around her autographs. I said the show was lovely and she said the sparkles on my face were. She wanted to check out the city the next day and we made plans to hang out, my heart beating fast as I took down her number. Sadly they ended up stuck getting their tour van checked so we weren’t able to chill (ugh), but hey I had two rad new posters and a signed vinyl so it was still a pretty sweet deal. With the trademark vibes they possess and an undeniable art to their rhythm, it’s pretty obvious TOPS has good things ahead for them, really good things. If you’re one of the unfortunate few that missed out on their Hamilton appearance, don’t cry yet – in June they’ll be back in Toronto to kick off summer’s sunny days at Bestival.
Read Kristin’s account of New Hands’ set in the following post.