Gardens And Villa’s name was inspired half by the Santa Barbara street where the band members live, and half by the garden that they tend in their backyard. These guys have a strong sense of place, and that certainly carries over to their self-titled debut. For the 10-song suite, Gardens And Villa takes ’90s Brit-pop, funky bass lines and new-wavey synth work, then plays it all together with the sort of laid-back, coastal sangfroid that you’d expect from five college buds whose promo photos abound in tank tops, shorts, and wayfarer shades. (Also worthy of mention: the group’s singer plays live with a quiver of wood flutes slung over his shoulder.)
Recorded over a two-week period last summer (during which the band camped out behind producer and labelmate Richard Swift’s Oregon studio), Garden And Villa’s self-titled record is front-loaded with its most energetic, direct numbers. “Black Hills” and “Cruise Ship” are relatively down-tempo, but they’re built around strong grooves and vocal phrasings that make them an effective one-two opening punch. Then there’s “Orange Blossom,” the record’s vibey first single, whose funky synth-bass lines and sixteenth-note runs on the wood flute leaves it sticking out from the rest of the record like a sore thumb (that is, if a sore thumb were a good thing).
Gardens And Villa’s first half ends with “Spacetime,” by far the most upbeat track of the ten, but after that point, the album dips into a twilight smokiness that brings the Walkmen’s You And Me to mind. The back half meanders through woozy loungers like “Chemtrails” and “Sunday Morning” before wrapping up with the spindly, tom-heavy “Neon Dove,” which breathes just enough life into the pacing to make you feel like you’ve listened to something complete by the time the percussion’s abrupt exit signals the record’s resolution.