On Thursday, night Franklin Music Hall hosted Men I Trust and TOPS. Both bands performed with their hearts on their sleeves, appealing instrumental synchronicities and packed the venue.

In a preppy, yet sporty fashion, Jane Penny greeted the crowd cheekily, a satin baseball jacket with the band’s name TOPS across the front in big red letters. Franklin Music Hall could feel that excitement, like she was about to crawl out of her own skin. TOPS set neatly cherry picked across their discography, TOPS and Penny performed “Way To Be Loved” off Picture You Staring which appeared to stick out emotively during the set for them.

David Carriere’s guitar fills and solos during the Thursday night set largely guided each of the songs, stylistically and dynamically. Penny’s vocals had similar power, each song felt authentic to itself, however it showed up and spectacularly so. Penny kicked it up a notch when she took out her flute later in the set, the crowd’s phones quickly shot up to record it.

TOPS | photo by Megan Matuzak for WXPN

Guitar and Flute volleyed back and forth during “The Hollow Sound of the Morning Chimes,” a 2015 single. Smiling and half mad dogging each other, the song turned into a little competition, both Penny and Carriere showed off epically. As the song faded out the pair met at the front of the stage to cross instruments signaling the end of the TOPS battle.

Sparking a sense of curiosity, a small track was placed in an arch that closed in the band, a tall white screen behind them.  The Franklin Music Hall crowd found out that it was for a spotlight that would transform and emphasize Men I Trust’s music in ways only live shows can. At times the spotlight moved along the track, it made huge, looming shadows over singer/guitarist Emma Proulx and Men I Trust. Larger than life, but still mysterious.

Men I Trust | photo by Megan Matuzak for WXPN

Men I Trust subscribes to the undertone jazz influenced, 60s vibe-y synth melody group of chill wave. The 00s’ feel to the electronic melodies and rhythms also largely defines their music and completes the make up of the band.  Based on the sudden wall of sound from the crowd Thursday night at Franklin Music Hall that followed the first couple notes of “Show Me How” off 2019’s album Oncle Jazz, their work is captivating.  It’s a safe space.

Jane Penny returned to the stage with her flute to join Men I Trust for “All Night” also off Oncle Jazz. Proulx pointed out that she and Penny have known each other before these bands, so it was special to see them play together.

During the set, Proulx spoke directly to the crowd telling them that they were so happy to be playing their current announced shows. This was because Men I Trust was going to take some time away to record a new album. She asked the still cheering crowd if they wanted to hear a new song. The new song is untitled, about a hot/cold relationship and has a distinct warbling synth melody. 

While Men I Trust fans will have to tough it out in the meantime, Thursday night at Franklin Music Hall felt more like a celebration not a going away party.