Craft Spells + Gardens & Villa at Empty Bottle | Photo gallery + live review
Like it or not, another '80s revival is upon us. That was clearly evident than at Tuesday night's double bill at the Empty Bottle, which found both Gardens & Villa and Craft Spells indulging in a mutual affinity for the sounds of the bygone decade.
Santa Barbara quintet Gardens & Villa started off the evening with "Black Hills," a pulsating, meandering ode overseen by frontman Chris Lynch's dreamy vocal work. The recent Secretly Canadian signees recorded their debut with prolific producer Richard Swift, who's pop mentality and flourishes permeated the entirety of the group's set. On the bouncing, funk-infused track "Orange Blossom," Lynch evoked Ian Anderson, trilling away on his wooden flute while singing about pollination. The unabashed synthpop of closing track "Star Fire Power" was reminder of what makes the retro '80s ambiance so attractive in the first place, and with an able group of musicians in tow, Gardens & Villa effectively harnessed it.
On record, Justin Vallesteros' bedroom recording project Craft Spells is a sea of hazy synths and morosely delivered lyrics. In concert, the synths were replaced with some Smiths-like guitar lines and Vallesteros' best Morrissey impression gave way to consistently pitchy vocals. The group certainly seemed nervous, entering just the second night of their tour, but most in attendance seemed quick to forgive their shortcomings. The audience had come to dance and when the disco ball switched on during the upbeat refrains of "The Fog Rose High," it became all the more apparent. "This is me in my sorrow / This is me at eighteen" warbled Vallesteros as he closed out the night with the plodding "You Should Close the Door." Perhaps the gloom was warranted, because compared to their tour-mates' well-oiled opening set, Craft Spells' showing paled.