Gardens & Villa tweaked their lineup after 2014's Dunes, but still steered by singer/guitarist Christopher Lynch and keyboardist Adam Rasmussen, Music for Dogs retains its predecessor's punchy danceability and even kicks up the intensity with an assist from producer Jacob Portrait (Unknown Mortal Orchestra). The first full song on the album, "Maximize Results," is representative of this commitment to momentum -- a decidedly catchy, hyper yet wistful, New Order-ish agitated club track. Listeners will go on to find the whole album is driving (at its most sedate still danceable), with some of the darker synth pop guitar and synth sounds mixed with real drums or a version thereof, à la Depeche Mode or, more recently, Painted Palms. "Happy Times" slows and calms things down, yet persistent snare and hi-hat chicks propel the gentler chill ever onto the dancefloor, or at least bobs heads in line at the bar. Delivering a sweet, wide-ranging melody over marching drums and glittery guitars and synths, "Everybody" still emanates a prodding anxiousness ("Everybody wants the new you/No one cares who you are"). This mix of beats, sweetness, and edgy tenseness permeates the album, even on the piano-throbbing, ultra-melodic "I Already Do" with Lynch's vulnerable falsetto musing "I'm gonna miss everyone, I think I already do." Though Music for Dogs has notably solid tunes at its core, the sweetened mechanical sound palette, buoyant vocals, and relentless leading rhythms really define the takeaway stamp of the record. However, it's the songs rather than the production that will keep repeat listeners coming back, even if they don't notice at first, or 20th, or 50th, and the marriage of the two works so well that folks are likely not to care why.
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AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson