Release Date: Jun 2, 2017
Record label: Arbutus Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Evidently undeterred by the "Fleetwood Mac DeMarco" tag that's been hung on them, Montreal's TOPS relocated to L.A. to make their third album, living together in a rented house and continuously recording for the better part of the past year. The video for standout track Petals, with its rumpled celebrity impersonators and well-worn convertible, suggests the vibe: ornate pop glamour in an age of pop austerity.
Montreal indie electronic outfit TOPS set up shop in a house and garage in Glendale, California to record their third LP, Sugar at the Gate. Rather than the clement setting adding a dose of sunshine or high contrast to the recordings, main songwriters Jane Penny and David Carriere are as reflective and despondent as ever here. Lead singer Penny revealed in press surrounding the album that she and Carriere had been dating for years but split around the time they finished it.
Montreal's TOPS sound like they're ready for a club remix. This isn't to say that their decision to record their new album, Sugar at the Gate, at a former brothel in L.A. has inspired a shift toward electronica or the gaudy opulence of EDM -- rather, it's the band's masterful awareness of space in their compositions and confident sense of restraint that leave their songs so open to re-imagination. Opener "Cloudy Skies" makes you question your own expectations as its grayscale synth textures and offset guitar stabs seem to build towards the indie pop equivalent of a "drop." And though it never comes, it doesn't need to.
Sugar at the Gate is their third full-length. While recording the album in L.A., the band lived at "Glamdale" - a former brothel turned mini-mansion in Glendale. The album seamlessly fits into that picturesque, breezy Californian aesthetic in a way that's not cliché. Vocalist-songwriter and frontwoman of TOPS , Jane Penny has a distinctive voice that's nostalgic and smooth like honey; romantically weaving you through the album.
When they formed in 2011, TOPS were among a crop of Montréal indie bands involved with Arbutus Records, a label that came into prominence after releasing Grimes' early albums and co-releasing 2012 breakout Visions with 4AD. Following Grimes' success, watchful eyes turned their sights to her peers, looking to crack the code in the city's scene. Among their compatriots--Blue Hawaii, Sean Nicholas Savage, Braids, and Majical Cloudz--TOPS were the most aligned to conventional notions of rock and pop, a throwback AM-rock band amid a sea of indie-tronica.
Montreal's TOPS have always been ones for taking the slightly more tacky fringes of pop and indie and transforming them from ugly ducklings into beautiful swans. On their last couple of albums, 'Tender Opposites' and 'Picture You Staring', they mined the depths of saccharine ballads, wistful funk licks and cheesy pop, generally managing to polish them up into something acceptable, maybe even cool. To record their latest album, TOPS moved to Los Angeles. True to form though, instead of picking out some contemporary palace of opulence, they opted to work within a site that encompassed the notion of faded glamour while also having that element of trashiness TOPS seem to love so much.