Album review: Luke Top’s soothing ‘Suspect Highs’

Though Luke Top has been in the business of making beautiful dance music with his band Fool’s Gold, his solo debut “Suspect Highs” is quite the relaxing affair.

Top fronts the colorful Fool’s Gold out of L.A., which bursts with African rhythms and tropical-pop aesthetics. The album certainly has flashes of Top’s output with the band, specifically its commitment to tasty rhythm, but where Fool’s Gold might put you on the mood to dance in the sunlight around on palm-laden beach with 100 other people, Top eases you over into a secluded cove to watch the party dance through the sunset from afar as you sip on a personal stash of rum.

Luke Top Suspect Highs“Suspect Highs” is very easy on the mind and soul, probably best described in a word: soothing. The songs delightfully flow to find the easiest possible course downstream, like the piano’s fluid run over the guitar and drums like a babbling brook on “Avalon.” It is hard not to get the feeling this album perfectly soundtracks a vacation on the beaches of Ibiza. Whether it is gently lapping up against the side of a yacht on the languid “Chariot” or cruising through the placid marina on a clear evening in “Marble Floors,” you’re moving at a relaxed pace, just going with the flow. And when the Mai Tais are flowing around a small but frisky party around the pool, “Lucky Penny” keeps the mood light and flirtatious with its cheery organ and Top’s swooning voice.

And it is Top’s unmistakable croon that accentuates the album’s peacefulness. It is a big, warm voice that fills up the songs like an afternoon breeze fills up the sails of a yacht. His voice waltzes back and forth without a care in the world on “Reunion” drawing a soft but subtle contrast to the tinkling piano line. Over a drum-machine bongo beat, which works way more than you would think in this setting, he lilts up and down along with the atmospheric guitar as they ride the breeze together on “On The Shore.” Little breaths of saxophone and a viscous guitar solo at the end bring a warm haze to the cool track.

Top’s voice matched with his musical stylings point to a clear comparison to the ever-curious David Byrne. Top certainly never meant to recreate what Byrne does, but if you were to find these tapes unmarked and listened to them you wouldn’t be out of line to think these could have been ballads left off of Byrne’s “Rei Momo” album he did exploring different African, Afro-Hispanic and Brazilian music. Both have a very tall and gentle baritone that are full of emotion and wonder and both seem to possess an ability to marry their voices with the rest of the music in a way that shines the spotlight on both rather than one or the other. They have compassion for their music and you can hear in their voices. They could most likely find some common ground if they were to share a drinks and a night of music.

  • Luke Top
    “Fool’s Gold”
    Release: March 4, 2016

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