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August 3, 2011

Album Review: Gardens & Villa via Secretly Canadian

by @thoughtontracks

Gardens & Villa, the self-titled debut LP out of Santa Barbara, CA, has remained a repeated listen since it first dropped July 5th. This dreamy, stoner take on post-punk California rock has proven a tough album to put down.

The disc opens with “Black Hills.” The sound is not dissimilar to their Secretly Canadian label mates Suuns. Though comparisons can be drawn, G & V’s sound is much more organic and accessible. Much of this is due to lead singer Chris Lynch’s soaring vocals.

“Cruise Ship,” the second song on the album brightens things up with a shinier keyboard line than “Black Hills” coupled with big handclaps. Gardens & Villa extend their hand insistent you join their trip:

This is how God made us to live

On California, the cruise ship

Bring your wife and your kids

California the cruise ship

The album hits its stride with “Orange Blossom.” Bouncy keyboards and flute float together above a wah pedal-driven bass line. This song is intoxicating and would work well in any DJ’s late night repertoire. With a track like this, it is hard to imagine how G & V escaped the California labels, landing instead in Bloomington.

G & V risk sending listeners into nap mode on “Chemtrails” heading directly toward sleepy, stoner territory. Bass drum, tambourine, bass, ambient piano riffs and a cello all dance quietly together as if the last song in some kind of opiate-laden high school dance. Heady stuff:

I don’t really want to go home

To places where they keep time

To places where we’d never find

Dandelions fly high

Through the marmalade sky

The last two lines serve as a Beatles reference. This proves apt as the track would feel at home amongst their LSD infused productions like Yellow Submarine. Not to worry, “Star Fire Power” picks the pace back up with a foot tapping, disco feel.

Gardens & Villa has the strange ability to sound similar thoughout without ever feeling redundant. The band hasn’t broken the mould musically, but the bottom line is this is REALLY good shit.  Spare yourself the iTunes bonus track—a terrible, synth-heavy remix of “Orange Blossom.” The original does just fine, thank you.

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