After the success of 2014’s Picture You Staring, Montreal’s TOPS moved to LA to write their much-anticipated follow up. Described as a “teenage fantasy” by vocalist Jane Perry, Sugar at the Gate was recorded in a mini-mansion and former brothel in which the band were living in. But with this new setting and high expectations, has it affected TOPS’ psyche?
Arriving with the skeletal beat of Cloudy Skies, fluttering guitars transcend as Jane Perry’s celestial vocals glide into a sea of enveloping synths. Perry’s exquisite voice carries onto Further, which finds TOPS really pursuing the soft rock tag as luscious keys nestle next to velvety percussion. Seconds Erase, with its halcyon instrumentation, is utterly gorgeous and fits perfectly next to the flute embellished I Just Wanna Make You Real.
However, TOPS make sure to not compartmentalise themselves to this aesthetic across the record. The sensual Marigold & Gray is full of groove, whilst the lyrical delivery of Cutlass Cruiser has a low-key attitude running throughout. Dayglow Bimbo is full of lo-fi sounding guitars and Topless even has an almost trip-hop vibe to its beats and atmosphere.
As for the album’s bona fide centrepiece, that’s where Fleetwood Mac-esque Petals comes in. A sun-kissed journey down California’s west coast, this laid-back yet driving ride really captures the band’s relocation to LA.
With Sugar at the Gate, TOPS’ ability to craft such an eclectic bunch of tracks is a real testament to their existence. Setting them apart from the plethora of indie rock bands that have become far too comfortable with their sound, TOPS have refused to remain stagnant and have created a record that, not only thoroughly belongs alongside the rest of their discography, but also opens up numerous avenues in which they can explore in the future.