Gardens & Villa Gardens & VillaGardens & Villa
If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, Gardens & Villa are brimming with adulation. For Yeasayer, for Prince, for Bowie and The Beatles - for an extensive list of celebrated visionaries. The problem being: all this apery is masking their own formidable talents.
They are some notable exceptions on their self-titled debut. “Chemtrails” is a glorious example of reverb-drenched Glo-Fi, seeped in shoe-gaze and blurred around the Beach House edges. One can even forgive the Lennon-circa-LSD lyrics and the growl of a plundered Grizzly Bear – for the liltingly affecting melodies and languid harmonies. With a few inventive embellishments they’ve made the sound their own. Similarly, “Star Fire Power” follows Phoenix’s synth-pop trail, before forking off to yearning brilliance – whilst “Black Hills” and “Cruise Ship” are wonderfully folded in fuzz. “Orange Blossom” is a real stand out of the album: Prince with panpipes, played at half speed. As smooth as R Kelly covered on a Casio, with a charmingly fanciful take on a sexual predator: “think of me like a swarm of bees / buzzing around your leaves / to pollinate means ecstasy / orange blossom / pheromones take me.”
Yet sadly Gardens & Villa move – at points – from the sublime to the ridiculous. The niggling doubts planted in “Thorn Castles” (Men At Work repeating inane proclamations over a new-wave demo) have seeded by “Spacetime”, a track so trite it sounds like the Flight of The Concords parody of David Bowie. On “Sunday Morning” my scepticism blossoms: all the wit is gone. It plods along like “Revolver” on a battery-drained Walkman.
Gardens & Villa are five young men from Santa Barbara who got the nod from the Richard Swift and so drove 14 hours to record with him. Obviously enamoured with the analogue master, they’ve ingested his influence with pride. However, by setting everything in quotation marks, Gardens & Villas have gagged their glory. It is frustrating - there is genuine potential here - but they need independence to soar. It’s hard to form an emotional connection to a carbon copy. Gardens & Villa have a future, but at present they offer little more than wistful requiems for someone else’s memories, nostalgia for another’s lost love.