In Zero 7's last album, When It Falls, there were more than noticeable hints that the band was taking the idea of a pop song a lot more seriously, which should then make it unsurprising that with Garden they've stepped even further in that direction, all but leaving their downbeat roots behind. Instead of being what the music is based around, the synthesized aspects once so prominent now act more like the thread that sews the different squares of the quilt together and keeps them in place. The actual substance, the fabric, is much more organic; it's the guitars, the keyboards, the horns, and the rich vocal harmonies. Sia returns as a guest artist, as does Swedish star José González, whose Jim Croce-esque voice works fantastically with the verdant plot of land that Zero 7 has managed to cultivate. The songs are creative and interesting, explorative without losing their focus or their point, moving about from being in love to reflections on life to obsession. "Throw It All Away" has a nice, easy summer groove, "Today" uses sparser instrumentals over electronic percussion, the vibraphone in "The Pageant of the Bizarre" adds a circusy, Air-like feel, and "Crosses," which first appeared on González's album Veneer, is embellished with changing dynamics, a Fleetwood Mac-esque piano line, plenty of keyboard effects, and a string section. While Sia's emotive voice has been long proven to be an excellent fit with Zero 7's music, the relative flatness of González's adds a nice texture to the rolling movement behind it. And main songwriter Henry Binns, who also take lead vocals occasionally, is a master at adding harmonies that bring a kind of light pastoral intensity to the pieces, and gives them a great sense of structure. With Garden, Zero 7 has created what could be the ultimate summer evening record: warm pop hooks, lush instrumentation, unobtrusive electronica elements, and '60s-style harmonies that all come together into superb, wonderfully descriptive songs. And what could be better than that?
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AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown