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- Picture You Staring by Tops
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Montreal's Tops drop a second album of downbeat synth and guitar pop. I seem to recall their debut 'Tender Opposites' was pretty good, and here again they're making something quite nice. Their stock in trade is tightly written soulful pop songs with uncluttered arrangements, '80s-sounding synth and guitar tones (mostly the guitar is quite Johnny Marr, except on 'Circle In The Dark' where it's pure Police) and silky but unshowy vocals from singer Jane Penny, whose smooth and strangely featureless delivery has a similarly anonymous beauty to Saint Etienne's Sarah Cracknell.
They tend to stick to a dreamily plodding place that brings to mind other tasteful downbeat popsters of recent years like The XX or even more recently Chvrches, but there seems to be a genuine love for the '80s pop they're influenced by that shines through in very charmingly unapologetic ways - when I get to 'Outside''s reverbed drums and Palladino-aping fretless bass I can't help but expect Paul Young to turn up and start duetting with Penny in the chorus. The Hall & Oates-ish bounce of '2 Shy' is also worth a mention. 'Picture You Staring' can plod in places and is far from a perfect record, but in its best moments it delivers likeable and lovingly crafted '80s-worshipping pop.
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