Coming nearly three years after the exceptional EP Hopelessly Incapable of Standing in the Way, Houston's Spain Colored Orange have finally released their debut full-length. The EP was a bit of a tease, its seven varied keyboard and trumpet-driven songs sounding like an inexplicable but utterly delightful melding of 10cc's quirky art-pop songcraft and unapologetic '70s gloss with the meandering song structures and ramshackle arrangements of Neutral Milk Hotel or the Olivia Tremor Control. It was clever, unique, and 31 flavors of awesome. Unfortunately, however, Sneaky Like a Villain was produced by Bill Racine, a protégée of Dave Fridmann, whose production style bears perhaps too much of his mentor's influence: though Gilbert Alfaro's boyish vocals and keyboards, and Eric Jackson's piercing trumpet solos are shown to their full effect on songs like the glorious "Who Am I" and the wistful "I Remember It Was Christmas Time," too much of the rest of the album, such as "Music Box" and "Hide" bury the piano, organ, trumpet and other key elements of the band's sound in the usual Fridmann-esque blur of effects, processing, and tape hiss. It's just disappointing to hear a band whose early work was so vibrantly different than everything else that was going on at the time turn into just another set of Mercury Rev/Grandaddy clones.
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason