Perhaps the most pressing question on Gardens & Villa‘s self-titled debut album was what kind of band does Gardens & Villa want to be? They mixed dreamwave, synthpop, and indie rock but rarely in the same song. The question remains going into their sophomore offering Dunes with still little answers given.
Opening track “Domino” starts off with a chill vibe with a catchy flute line over electronic beats. The track oozes summer by the pool. Although more synths are incorporated as the song wears on, it never feels like synthpop. By synthpop is exactly what the listener gets from the next track “Colony Glen.” The track which was released as the second single from the album is driven by synth bass and drums. It has an 80s-vibe to it, reminiscent of the Human League‘s “Don’t You Want Me.” The 80s vibes continue with the album’s lead single and arguably best song, “Bullet Train.” The track starts with a Michael Jackson “Billie Jean”-esque beat before incorporating a steady bassline and flutes. The falsetto vocals lilt over the instrumental with a slight reverb on them giving the track plenty of atmosphere. The chorus, however, is the real stand out; channeling the Shins, the vocals gain an authority about them and the synths crescendo.
Unfortunately, track three is really the high point of Dunes. The rest of the album delivers some chill ballads like “Chrysanthemums,” “Purple Mesas,” and “Minnesota” but none of them really stand out. The other tracks are more of the 80s schtick similar to “Colony Glen.” While the album does seem to suggest Gardens & Villa want to be an 80s-tinged synthpop band, there are still so many inconsistencies that it is hard to tell. As the band matures their sound should become more apparent but right now, pick a song and it is a crapshoot as to what you might get.