So few albums have been able to capture the mindset and advances of the 21st century in a sincere and concrete way. What was once science fiction is becoming more of a reality, and commenting on such — whether it be through music, literature or film — is difficult. Perhaps this is due to the rarity in which such commentary work is produced as well as the quality of previous attempts. Gardens and Villa are a synthpop band from Santa Barbara, Calif., who attempt to reflect on the current state of culture and society on their third effort, Music for Dogs.
The group puts forth a disdain and rejection for modern technological objects like e-cigarettes: “Vaporizing cigarettes/ Reverential productions/ Following down the rabbit hole,” and touch on the isolation and materialism present in our culture: “A new TV/What you need.” However, their message never hits hard enough to induce an emotional reaction. The songs are thin-sounding, characterized by pounding keys, stagnant drumming and swirling synths, with every turn and transition anticipated.
Gardens and Villa are fronted by Chris Lynch, who puts forth melodies that are never able to achieve the catchiness they reach for and are often clunky; the same can be said for the lyrics. The lyrics are repetitive, and while repetitive music is not always ineffective, the group dwells on phrases that are not pleasing to listen to or that carry a depth. Even worse, these lyrics are sung over a melody that becomes tiring.
The second track on the album, “Maximize Results,” is the prime example of lyric and melody being overused on the album. That being said, the song does offer enjoyable ’80s-influenced instrumentals especially from bassist Shane McKillop. “Everybody” and “Fixations” serve as highlights on the album, reminiscent of James Mercer and Danger Mouse’s Broken Bells project.
Music for Dogs would be more effective if the group went more in depth into the topics they bring up. Fans of ’80s synthpop will find enjoyable moments on the album, but overall Gardens and Villa fall short of their objective.