“Pop music shouldn’t always get a bad rap,” says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of indie pop highlights across a selection of styles, updated every month to keep you on your wiggly toes. This month, Gardens & Villa and Dum Dum Girls return, Howard Ivans of GAYNGS and The Rosebuds goes solo, and JMSN, Starlight Girls and The Slims show that they really, really know how to do their own thing.

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Gardens & Villa - Bullet TrainPhotography by Neil Favila

Gardens & Villa – “Bullet Train”

Returning with the introductory single from their February 2014 Secretly Canadian release, Dunes, Southern California’s Gardens & Villa seem to be on a brand new tip of exploring death and life in the fast lane. Californian at heart and name-dropping Los Angeles and The Bay Area like rapstars, “Bullet Train” dishes out Prince-like funkiness and manages to one-up the band’s previous use of falsetto-laden vocals and flute-playing majesty. My favorite track from the record, “Bullet Train” is just one quick glimpse into an album full of reflections on being and becoming.


JMSN – “Walk Away”


From the full-length †Pllajë†, self-released earlier this month, JMSN’s “Walk Away” starts with a minimal R&B creep, dramatic with layers of vocal echoes. As it gathers energy and reaches its midway point, strings complement an impressive array of clattering percussive sounds, to turn the track from a relaxed listen into a moody, contemplative affair.

 

Howard Ivans – “Red Face Boy”


Red Face Boy, which saw its release earlier this month, showcases Howard Ivans (of GAYNGS and The Rosebuds) pursuing his solo career with an impressive level of funkiness. Ping-ponging with horns and synths galore and an ever-pulsating rhythm line, this title track is an unbelievable reminder that sometimes going solo is just a decision that really, really needs to be pursued.

 

The Slims – “Only A Part, Not The Whole”


It’s always appreciated when a band can take you on a journey with a song, and with this “Only A Part, Not The Whole”, The Slims introduce listeners to experiments in noise and Chinese opera-inspired intros before diving deep into the soulful, minimal, and jazzy. The best part of it all, though, is that they weave in and out between these territories as though it were the most natural thing in the world — and it works, because it does feel natural, somehow. This track comes from their self-released album, Slowpoke, which came out earlier this fall. They also hail from Florida — another rare feat.

 

Starlight Girls – “Inhibitionist”


After releasing the ever-righteous “7×3” earlier this year, Starlight Girls return with another worthwhile single, “Inhibitionist”. Daring in its incorporation of banshee-like female vocals, twangy guitars, and haunting organ lines, the track is one full of momentum, more exhibitionist than full of inhibition, really, and quite an exciting offering from two Brooklyn girls who personally send out their press e-mails.

 

Dum Dum Girls – “Lost Boys And Girls Club”

“Lost Boys And Girls Club” isn’t a particularly flashy track — but its slow-motion drumbeats, vocal melodies, and guitar lines leave one in a hazy breeze. It is the repeating synth and vocal melody which covers both high and low registers and gets itself lodged into your head, inviting you to swirl alongside Dum Dum Girls in thoughts about indecision. This track comes from Too True, which will be released in January 2014 via Sub Pop Records, and the video is certainly worth a watch as well.

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