Music

Gardens & Villa: Music For Dogs

Gardens & Villa ditch the dull synthpop of their previous outing and turn out one of the year's best rock albums, a gritty art-pop statement crackling with energy.


Gardens & Villa

Music For Dogs

Label: Secretly Canadian
US Release Date: 2015-08-21
Amazon
iTunes

You got the sense that on Gardens & Villa’s previous two records something wasn’t right. The talent was there, but it sounded like the Secretly Canadian signees weren’t putting their knack for creating ear-catching sonic palettes, by deftly blending the organic and the synthetic, to good use. Instead, 2014’s Dunes found the Santa Barbara natives spending their time dabbling rather unwisely in oversaturated post-MGMT dance-pop, and the lukewarm reception from fans and critics alike doomed the record’s chances at breaking through. It appeared as though these relative new-comers were destined to crumble under the weight of the enormous expectations that come with signing to one of the preeminent independent rock labels and the suffocating ambivalence of the indie blogosphere.

Fortunately, it looks like Gardens & Villa aren’t about to let that happen. After expressing some displeasure with both producer Tim Goldsworthy’s glossy production and the increasing pressure from the label to turn out a synth-pop product, the band acted quickly. Moving their headquarters from Santa Barbara to the concrete sprawl of east L.A. and working now as a duo made of core members Adam Rasmussen and Chris Lynch, they’ve turned in their third and best LP, Music for Dogs, just 18 months after their previous record. The faux-R&B numbers of Dunes are nowhere to be found, replaced instead by a set of songs that contain a newfound sense of assertiveness and a wiry, nervous energy.

The change is announced right out of the gate with “Maximize Results”, a manic burst of post-punk propelled by a relentless bass riff and washes of flanged guitar. “Everything endless, everything now, looking for ways through the feedback,” sings frontman Chris Lynch, alluding to the never-ending stream of criticism an artist encounters on the internet. It’s not the only time their critics are addressed: “Working for the blogs, searching for the saviours, music for the mobs...,” Lynch chants on the tense art-rock workout of “General Research”. “We’ll find a way to generate reaction," Lynch smirks mid-way through the track, and it’s precisely these kinds of moments, where the duo channel digital-age frustration through spiky blasts of arty new-wave, that make Music for Dogs such a compelling listen.

The gentler moments on Music For Dogs work quite nicely as well, particularly the romantic, Morrissey-esque pop of “Everybody” and the luxurious, mid-tempo balladry of “Paradise”, where Lynch’s voice turns from a tightly wound spring to a warm, faux-english-accent-flecked croon. The record’s only true stumbling block comes in the form of the second track, “Fixations”, which trades in the volatile art-pop of the record’s strongest moments for a vaguely neo-psychedelic sound that’s a bit too reminiscent of the current pack of John Lennon-indebted acts. But for a 36-minute record packed with this much energy and lively sonic textures, it’s hardly a complaint, as the brief run time assures the listener that there’s a new idea just around the corner.

But what’s most rewarding about Music For Dogs above all, is having the chance to listen to an artist throwing what’s expected of them out the window, and not being afraid to be themselves, to be a little weird and most importantly in this case, to be a little pissed off. In doing so, Gardens & Villa have granted themselves a new lease on their artistic life, and have produced one of the year’s best rock albums.

9
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Music

Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.