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Photo: Kirk Lisaj
Photo: Kirk Lisaj

Jane Penny Comes Back Up For Air With Surfacing

The TOPS frontwoman re-emerges with a beautiful debut solo offering in tow. 

by Madeline Lines

It’s hard to top TOPS, but if anyone’s to do it, it’s the Montreal-based indie band’s own lead singer, Jane Penny. 

Penny and her signature floaty vocals are back on the scene with Surfacing, a debut solo EP that holds its own weight. It’s been four years since her band’s last album, I Feel Alive, and the familiar sounds on Penny’s new effort will certainly satiate the hungry TOPS fans who have been waiting. 

Influenced by times where she was buoyed in Berlin and lockdown-era Montreal, Penny carves out a watery atmosphere for introspection. It’s pulsing with familiar synths and dotted with her childhood instrument, the flute. Opening with a THX-movie buzz on “Darkness Can Wait For A Night,” the tight seven-track run seamlessly morphs from ethereal to boppy sounds on tracks like the album’s lead single, “Messages.” Fellow Montreal indie stalwart and former RANGE cover star Patrick Holland lent an ear and a studio, giving her a hand to grab when exploring choppy emotional waters. “Your touch is satin, sateeeen,” sings Penny in a Sade-sounding crescendo, and the album feels like a similar texture. 

In contrast to her uncertain, soul-searching lyrics, Penny’s solo debut feels sure of itself and effortless. “Look ma, no hands,” she croons on the closer “Accelerate Slowly” – an artist who seems like she could churn out beautiful records in her sleep.