Gardens & Villa
Santa Barbara, CA
Empire of the Sun, Vampire Weekend, Broken Social Scene
In 2010 the musicians of Gardens & Villa (a name spawned from their Santa Barbara origins) made a pilgrimage to Portland, Oregon, where they crashed at friends’ houses, spent their days trying to hone the song-writing process, and literally camped out for two weeks in producer Richard Swift’s back yard while recording their debut album. The result is a dreamscape of sound that undulates between the ethereal to more concrete beats in synth-infused, rhythmic tracks like Orange Blossom and Spacetime.
It’s not a stretch to suggest the band members of Gardens & Villa are inspired by the natural world and a perceived sense of mysticism. Just take a look at their track list, which includes titles like “Black Hills,” “Chemtrails,” “Neon Dove,” “Thorn Castles,” and “Star Fire Power.” If you’ll excuse the pun, however, this isn’t your garden-variety neo-hippy band.
While Gardens & Villa may be prone to shoe-gaze leanings with a decidedly ambient bent, the music is coupled with a taste for the psychedelic, as well as an appreciation of world instrumentation. In addition, wheelhouse tools such as whistling, the flute, and soaring vocal harmonies round out their songs. Impressively, the band also made a pact to play every instrument live during their shows, a nod to “Stop Making Sense” by the Talking Heads, one of their musical influences. Paired with carefully abstract lyrics that flirt with the empyrean – “Inspire love, your cosmic touch, and your siren singing / Ringing out like the big bang” – the final result is a pleasantly palatable full-length album that will neither upset the cosmos nor send you scurrying to your favorite social medium to proclaim your latest discovery.
A recent press release claims Gardens & Villa is poised to “bang out instant classics” and “effectively wipe clear the Vaseline from the murky bedroom funk of recent days,” but the metaphor seems a bit pedestrian for a seemingly humble group of young men otherwise dedicated to perfecting a sophisticated, polished sound. Granted, the indie music map is littered with an increasingly homogenous throng of hipsters armed with old Casio SK-1’s. The difference, in this case, is a devoted and talented group of musicians that has managed to produce a sound that rises above the cacophony.