Gardens & Villa – Gardens & Villa

January 01, 1970

(Secretly Canadian)

A Santa Barbara quintet that features flute, lyrics about “marmalade
skies” and occasional outbursts of “tribal” percussion, Gardens
& Villa can be gently, even drowsily psychedelic. Yet most of the songs on
the band’s self-titled debut pivot on Adam Rasmussen’s sprightly keyboard
riffs. And whenever singer-guitarist Chris Lynch reaches across a synth motif
to activate his falsetto, the pastoral vibe turns urban. This is one neo-hippie
crew that’s studied mid-’80s Britpop.

G&V has been likened to Yeasayer, and parts of “Neon Dove” merit
the comparison. But such driving, twitchy tracks as “Spacetime” and
“Thorn Castles” are closer to Clinic. And
the funky-bottom/swoony-top strategy of “Orange Blossom” recalls
“Wood Beez”-era Scritti Politti — although Green Gartside was more
inclined to sing about philosophy than botany. Lynch even sings, “think of
me/like a swarm of bees.”

The band does trippy almost as well as it does jumpy: The delicately woozy
“Sunday Morning” is one of the album’s highlights, while “Neon
Dove” dances amiably into the mystic (assisted by a nifty synth hook). But
“Carrizo Plain” takes its erotic pantheism a little too far —
“you and I are intertwined,”  indeed — and the group usually
relies on electro-pop to sell its nature-boy shtick. The members of Gardens
& Villa may spend a lot of time outdoors, but they’re probably listening to
Human League on headphones as they tiptoe through the thorns.

Blossom,” “Thorn
“Sunday Morning”” MARK JENKINS

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