Words by Brian Salvatore

Sometimes a record’s creation myth takes over its actual substance. Music for Dogs is one of those instances.

From the earliest materials about the record were released, the story was nearly defined. Chris Lynch and Adam Rasmussen, the duo behind Gardens & Villa, moved into a warehouse space in industrial Los Angeles, christened it Space Command, and have eschewed the conventions of modern music making, to do something bold: they’ve blurred the lines between work, living space, and recreation. Music for Dogs is supposed to be the unfiltered reality of Gardens and Villa, with all the bullshit removed. The press release that accompanies the record talks about a pull to the avant-garde, and a retreat from the indie pop world, where the band felt very claustrophobic.

All of this makes for a really interesting story, and it helps set the record apart from the dozens of other indie rock records released this August. I’m not here to tell you that the story is false, either – I’m just here to tell you that I hear almost none of that creation myth in the record.

The shackles of indie-pop are still strapped down all over this record – the spacey synths, the mixture of live and electronic drums, the bouncy piano, the falsetto vocals – they haven’t gone anywhere. This is an incredibly well produced, poppy record, with some solid songs and perfectly cromulent playing all over it. But to try to set this aside as some miracle of modern record making just doesn’t ring true.

Sure, there are a few touches that reflect the story – the percussion on “Jubilee” sounds like it was recorded in a warehouse and not in a studio; sure, some of the pieces of the record are probably a bit more ambitious/dense than on prior releases, but nothing sounds so vastly different than your standard issue Gardens & Villa record. Sure, it is, perhaps, a bit less glossy, but that isn’t really newsworthy.

Of course, the creation of the record is an experience that I can’t recreate, and perhaps Gardens & Villa really felt free in this process. But I can’t comment on that; all I can comment on is the record at hand, which is a pleasant, well made pop record. The fact that it doesn’t live up to its hype has no bearing on my enjoyment of the record, or on the quality of songs held within. It just serves to remind us that, in translating personal experience to others, something is always, irrevocably, lost.

Gardens & Villa
‘Music for Dogs’
Secretly Canadian
© August 21st, 2015



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