It’s about time I got around to writing up the group whose performance I enjoyed the most at SXSW. This five guy group from Santa Barbara could easily start a cult around their psychedelic pop sound. Their unique brand of music emerges from that part of California which is awkwardly spaced between Nor and So-Cal. But Gardens & Villa are decisively Nor-Cal: They may as well be from Berkeley, West Marin, or better yet the drumming circles at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The quality of their music is a serene-ness which has been compared to Beach House, but which– in my humble opinion– eclipses anything Beach House has ever done.
On their first (and only) release Gardens & Villa, recorded over two weeks in the summer of 2010, the band camped behind fellow labelmate (Secretly Canadian) Richard Swift’s Oregon studio. “No shower, no kitchen, but all the magic you could ask for.” “Black Hills” became the hit song off the mini-album– for reasons that quickly become obvious on first listen– but the whole thing is gold. On every track, you can hear Chris Lynch’s vocals hitting notes that would normally crack a man’s voice, so I’d call them super-human. On a track like “Star Fire Power,” synths out of the 1980′s give way to perfectly executed bass lines and the faint stirring of some kind of African drum (and later your typical drums, but tastefully using the bass drum and floor toms).
Gardens & Villa are a must-see band live. In my words: “The band’s sound was perfectly blended, like your favorite smoothies combine the right amount of fruit. It was also refreshingly psychedelic: not trippy, but certainly the stuff that inspires colorful daydreams. A pair of young women all in white were playing the part of flower girls, moving their body to the tribal-like drums and world-music sounds emitted from the keyboard. “Black Hills” was the pièce de résistance: it had everyone shaking some part of his or her body and smiling.”