Gardens & Villa: Gardens & Villa

Gardens & Villa: Gardens & Villa

The Santa Barbara quintet Gardens & Villa belongs to the tradition of scruffy California rock bands that make music as big, breezy, weird, and subtly sinister as their home state. Like Beck, Ariel Pink, and Grandaddy before them, the guys in Gardens & Villa add an electronica element to classic Cali-pop, with noodling synthesizers that sound like they’ve been gathering dust and rust for decades, right up to the moment the band stumbled across them. That fits the general vibe of Gardens & Villa, from the band’s name—which recalls some low-rent suburban apartment complex—to the songs on the self-titled debut. Gardens & Villa tracks like “Cruise Ship” (which lists the amenities of a luxury liner as a sleazy romantic come-on) and “Orange Blossom” (which details the chemical reactions of lust over a syrupy, funky beat) try to dress up base human instincts in blatantly phony, flowery language. The music is also catchy and a little distorted, with rhythms that lag and melodies that bloom briefly before they dead-end into monotone. The strongest knock against Gardens & Villa is that the band seems too content to linger in that slow, spacey zone, instead of hitting the highs that songs like “Black Hills” and “Thorn Castles” can reach. But then a certain caution is probably to be expected from a region accustomed to deception and disappointment.

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