There’s a lot you can tell about a group of people from their photography. So take a look at the web log maintained by Gardens & Villa depicting the Santa Barbara-based five-piece in the hours of playtime available to most bands in often-vast quantities (albeit while doing “work”).

What you’ll hear on their eponymous album is not really related to what you see in those images. You’ll have to scrutinise the music very closely to hear the fun and the humour you can view online. Which is so often the case with so many bands.

This is completely unfair of course - had Gardens and Villa not bothered with a photo blog I would not have said a thing, yet it does seem all too common. Too many musicians hide their true personalities behind an outer shell and project something slightly different on record. Did you know Elvis Presley was a huge Monty Python fan? Nope?

Yet Gardens and Villa would no doubt ask you to lie back, put on a straight face, open a beverage and enjoy the music for what it is.

Evidence of this comes from the use of laid back bass, pan-pipe-pitch flutes and fluttering electronic confetti raining down on many of the tracks. The synth driven tracks have a rather metronomic quality to them that might well sum up the mood of a group of mates hanging out one summer in the beautiful state of Oregon where they recorded the album. And indeed many of the tracks describe the geography that surrounded the band when they wrote this. Opening track ‘Black Hills’ is a genuinely great song.

Unfortunately this record never elevates much beyond a plodding synth melody at the base of almost everything and the lack of emotional content becomes a little bit dull. Which is a shame because gardens and Villa are a talented bunch and a fine live band. Check out the album by all means, and definitely see them live if you can. But don’t expect a rollercoaster ride - there’s no irony, excitement, sadness or obvious joy on this record. And that in itself is a little bit sad.

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