Though Gardens hail from the greater Detroit area, if they decided to move to Austin or Brooklyn, judging from the sound of their debut self-titled record, they’d fit right in. The trio has the look of Brooklyn with their oversized glasses and garish shirts, but more importantly, they share a reverb-y clatter that is standard BK issue. Their snotty attitude and wiry guitar attack is straight Texas, though you could also throw a little Tennessee into that equation. There’s barely any Detroit in the mix, though a cast of Motor City heroes (like Warren Defever of His Name Is Alive and Ko Melina of the Dirtbombs) are on hand to help out. Sounding like the city you hail from isn’t really all that important, except as a marketing tool, though (and most importantly) the band combine their geographical and sonic influences into something that sounds pretty fresh. The production is focused but still loose, the songs are hooky but not overly structured, and the performances are energetic and tossed-off sounding at the same time. It’s an appealing approach that really takes off when the songs are super good. About half the record fits this bill. On tracks like the catchy-as-get-out "Maze Time," the alternately slow-grooving and slow-grinding "Ideas to Use," or the rocked-out "Staring at a Line is Not Always Fine," the band comes very close to hitting on all cylinders. The rest of the album either rushes by in a wave of snarl and snark, or shambles past like a shaggy dog with nowhere important to go. No matter what, though, it’s an engaging listen, and Gardens ends up being pretty much all you need from a debut; an attempt to find a unique sound, a handful of sticky tunes, a bunch of energy and fun. Give these guys another record or two to really get going, and they might have people talking about a Detroit sound the same way people talk about Austin or Brooklyn.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra