Gardens & Villa – s/t

Rating: ★★★½☆

So much can be said about a band’s debut album; most importantly, it is the first real taste at the style of the group. For Gardens & Villa, this debut is even more important considering the fact that they did not produce an EP as an introduction. With that in mind, this album feels even more impressive, as the songs feel much more mature and aged than that of a group just getting things together.

The opening track proves to be one of the finer moments from the start. “Black Hills,” begins with pulsating synthesizer beckoning your ears to wait keenly for this song to kick into gear. Then percussion is added to bump things up a notch, but not to an outright dance number. Instead it comes across as more of a casual psych pop number, with the vocals pushing it to something more. In stark contrast with the deep tones of the synth, the vocals are edgy, and borderline on falsetto in moments. Mellow, yet still bubbly, this opener finds the right balance between moody and groovy.

The next noticeable standout comes on “Thorn Castles,” a short number that only feels shorter when sandwiched in between the rest of the numbers on this album. On this track, what stands out the most are the vocals provided by lead singer Chris Lynch. Running along the lines of a shriek, it completes the eerie-cheery vibe that Gardens & Villa have definitely got going for them. In fact, this theme seems to persist into every song, and even takes over completely at the end of “Spacetime,” when the beat slows down to a gait and the vocals eases from its starkness into to a creepy whisper.

As far as variation in pacing goes, this album is all about the changes: one instant, you have “Chemtrails,” and the next “Star Fire Power,” which are perhaps both songs at the opposite end of the pace spectrum for this band. “Chemtrails” is a crawler, laden with minute details and elegant harmonies at its close. It is followed directly by “Star Fire Power,” which is a stellar dance party number that begins slowly, and then builds to a catchy chorus with a deep bass line that is sure to have you bobbing your head.

Looking at the whole album, I do not see a song that sticks out as horrible or misplaced. There are definitely some that resound above the rest, and others that fell mediocre in comparison, but on a whole, this is an impressive and enjoyable first effort.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Gardens-Villa-Star-Fire-Power.mp3]

Download: Gardens & Villa – Star Fire Power [MP3]

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