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First Play: Tops, Sugar at the Gate

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Andrea Gin

When Tops started to work on their new album, they decided a change of scenery was in order. The Montreal band decided to temporarily decamp to Los Angeles, where its members rented a house, settled in and let the songs slowly emerge. While doing that, they also managed to live out some childhood dreams.

"Living in L.A. was living out a teenage fantasy, living with your band and practising in the garage,” says vocalist-songwriter Jane Penny via press release. “It was also the first time we've ever had that much space to make music. I took the experience of living in L.A. as a challenge to make music that I know is real to me, in the sense of it feeling true and containing true feelings, but also recordings of great songs, the real thing."

You can feel that sense of freedom and discovery on the resulting album, Sugar at the Gate. From the dreamy R&B feel of “Further” to the shoegazey distortion of “Dayglow Bimbo,” it is the indie band’s most diverse-sounding record yet.

Lead single “Petals” is perhaps the most reflective of the band's time in the California sun. It's a smooth-rock '70s jam that contains lyrics like “Got a phone full of numbers and a list full of names/ no one to call” and comes with a tongue-in-cheek video that portrays a glamorized version of life in L.A.

Sugar at the Gate is the band’s third album, its first since 2014’s acclaimed Picture You Staring. While the band is made up of the core trio of Penny, guitarist David Carriere and drummer Riley Fleck, this time around they’ve added Jackson MacIntosh on bass and Marta Cikojevic on keyboards for live shows.

The band will be on tour in Europe in June, with Canadian dates yet to be announced. Sugar at the Gate will be out on June 2 via Arbutus Records. Pre-order it here.