GARDENERS: ALONG THE HEATHER
The latest band to come out of the increasingly exciting upstate South Carolina scene, Gardeners, got off the mark this month. Hailing from Rock Hill, the five-piece introduce themselves with personality, versatility, and a series of certified summertime bangers in their debut EP, Along The Heather.
Gardeners begin with the two-minute instrumental piece “Hot Car,” setting the tone for what will be an emotive, sincere album. Bombastic drums and sharp guitar work narrates explosions in the summer sky. The bold, atmospheric energy is interspersed with several ethereal tones, sometimes hidden for support, sometimes sustained, and sometimes working as a pleasant synth tone or backing vocals, all working to fill out the mix. The lyricism of the guitar work propelled by a euphoric pace defines the track and the tone of the project.
The energy that was stirring in “Hot Car” continues into one of the project’s creative peaks, “Bug.” The three-pronged vocal arrangement introduce themselves confidently, wafting through the first of many sticky hooks over another well-worked bridge piece. The track is adventurous: seamlessly passing from one memorable statement to the next and culminating in my favorite guitar piece of the year so far.
Gardeners don’t let off the intensity and dive into the chorus of “Cuts,” the project’s lead single. This track is effective in its ability to shift the dynamic of this momentum into the creamy interludes sang over plucked brushstrokes and the best moment for drummer, Ali Kaveh.
“Cross Eyed” serves as a halfway point and an interlude, working in some minor chords and verse-heavy composition. I love the psych guitar wafts to begin and end the song. “Cross Eyed” turns the reins over to Lillian Peel, who ruminates over the back half of the project, frequently pairing into dynamic harmonies.
In “Little Stones,” Peel works over a Strokes-inspirited electric riff, wafting confidently into another well-worked instrumental break. She is able to channel something in the first verse that sounds equal parts Japanese Breakfast and Bjork and feels like walking into a club set in a Tarantino movie. From there, the verses are split by a briefly expanding reach, releasing into a free, psychedelic instrumental.
One of the defining features of this album is how much there is going on. The album is instantly accessible, but not at the point of compromising itself into a verse-chorus-verse template. The playing is brilliant. Gardeners have assembled an excellent lineup of not only talented performers, but have an excellent ear for the recording process. I love the mixing and the array of tones. A standout for me is the guitar on the end of “Bug.” The highflying, almost surf rock sound transitioning into the buzzsaw riff is a fantastic finish.
Gardeners can do everything. This plethora of ability is maybe most pronounced in the vocal deliveries. The strained release of “Bug,” the wavy hum in “Cuts” interlude, and the Chris Isaak-esque smoky moments in “Cross Eyed” are all effective and not straining range, occurring even before Peel takes over the back half with several unique musings of her own.