Heaven's Gate at 285 Kent -- one of the best sets I saw at CMJ. Hey you guys, come play at my house.After several years of attending the CMJ Music Marathon as a college radio music director, I've learned that wandering around on Ludlow Street hoping to "stumble upon" new music is a waste of time. Festivals like CMJ, in general, are ineffective ways to "discover" music -- these day they are mostly only a nice platform for international touring bands to work a tour around, since they can often receive government funding and logistical assistance to play showcases curated by their national arts councils.
Montreal avant-pop 4-piece TOPS were a total highlight of SXSW for me this year. And ever since, their full-length debut Tender Opposites has appeared constantly on my college radio playlists. It's one of the best debut records I've heard this year. Their label, Arbutus Records -- who have previously also released records by GRIMES and BRAIDS -- just released their record internationally with two additional tracks.
From the ever-exceptional Montreal music community surrounding the Arbutus label – previously responsible for releasing early music by acclaimed experimental songstress GRIMES and ethereal out-there outfit BRAIDS – come dream-pop quartet TOPS. At yesterday’s Pop Montreal showcase, they put on one of the more memorable sets of SXSW so far.