Odds are you haven’t heard of indie pop up-and-comers Gardens & Villa…yet. Formed in 2008 while the members were college students in Santa Barbara, the band just released its debut self-titled LP in July on Secretly Canadian. Gardens & Villa is a confident record with some truly stand-out tracks that sets the band up well for a sustained run of music-making.
Gardens & Villa’s sound is hard to categorize. Reviewers have called it everything from “electronica meets classic Cali-pop” to “art-funk.” It is an eclectic mix of traditional pop structures with yelping falsetto vocals, synth flourishes, and flute solos. “Orange Blossom” focuses in on a slow, space-funk bass line before giving in to drum machine claps and a flute riff that rivals the best work of Jethro Tull. “Black Hills” juxtaposes pulsating synths and a steady drum beat with an all-over-the-map vocal performance from lead singer Chris Lynch. Binding the various experiments in sound, however, is the band’s use of vivid nature imagery. These are not straight-ahead narratives, but cryptic word paintings that emphasize the mysterious nature of the physical world. For example, this passage from “Black Hills” talks about being changed by natural wonder, being “baptized” by it.
Up on the mountain we climb
We watch the seas rise so high
We will be baptized just like before
White night, sunlight
As a band going out on their first headlining tour, Gardens & Villa are counting on curious audience members to go to their shows without previous knowledge of their entire back catalogue For me, this type of concert-going experience has proven to reap many rewards. While going to a favorite artist’s show and belting out all the lyrics is a guaranteed time-well-spent, there’s something special about taking a chance on a new or recently discovered band and being “converted” by the live experience. Listening to an artist on the radio or in iTunes provides the listener with a piece of the artist, but a live show is truly the best way to have an intimate experience with the artist, to understand the artist, to literally feel the artist.
Calvin Student Activities Office has a rich history of bringing in up-and-coming artists that go on to become household names. The Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, Jack Johnson, Sufjan Stevens, and Fleet Foxes all played at Calvin early on in their careers and have since become major figures in the music industry. Gardens & Villa seems no different. While young, they have a unique, polished sound that could easily reach a larger audience with time.
- Dan Hofman