[Album Review] TOPS- Sugar at the Gate
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Release Date: June 2nd, 2017
Label: Arbutus Records
Staying true to their fuzzy am-rock sound, ‘Sugar at The Gate’ is a welcomed continuation of their last album ‘Picture You Staring’ but with a little more kick. Being among the talented roster at Montreal’s Artibus Records (Grimes, Blue Hawaii, Sean Nicholas Savage), TOPS began their musical endeavours in Montreal, making a name for themselves within the Canadian indie scene. ‘Sugar at the Gate’ was recorded at Glamdale in Los Angeles, a mini-mansion and former brothel. This choice of location reflects the trashy-elegance that this album encompasses, and portrays a sense of faded glamour that is somber but still wistfully dreamy.

Lead single “Petals”, has Jane Penny’s breezy  vocals taking you into a daydream while David Carriere’s funk licks keep you moving along to the music. “Cutlass Cruiser”, exudes pop glamour at its finest; it is more upbeat than what we normally hear from TOPS, and it works. They took a similar up-tempo turn with “Day Glow Bimbo” which probably has the heaviest sounds that TOPS has ever produced.

With moments of lonely vocals in between the signature TOPS sound of un-pretentious and understated drums and guitar, “Hours Between” is in my opinion is the most emotionally charged track on the album.  As she reflects, “Nothing like a dream/It was true that you had something/I never wanted to let you in”, you hear the sound of vulnerability that comes with ill-fitted romance. “Marigold & Gray” is the most reminiscent of the sounds from ‘Picture Your Staring’, with a more ambient and doleful sound while “I Just Want to Make You Real” adds a touch of flute to this tone leaving you longing about past loves.

Overall, with Riley Flecks’ controlled and cool drumming style, David Carriere’s jangly, slightly funky guitar, and Jane Perry’s unmistakable vocals, this album showcases a profound grasp of pop fundamentals. It will definitely be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates the dreamy romantics of AM love songs and the moody restraint that TOPS continue to do to perfection.