Villas - Secrets
from their name and the photograph that graces the cover of
the Villas' debut LP, Secrets, it would at first appear
that Bryan Ferry and Alanis Morissette have agreed to coordinate
their talents on an eclectic collection of Linda Ronstadt-styled
Mexican melodies. Closer investigation, however, reveals that
the Villas are, in fact, the husband-and-wife/Adam-and-Eve
team of Bill and Angel Ali Villa - a pair of persistent and
plucky Pennsylvanians who, with a little help from their friends,
have managed to craft themselves a gentle gem of a record.
Bill is the singer, and he sounds quite a bit like that most
idiosyncratic of modern rock idols, Elvis Costello - albeit
with a softer center and a fuzzier fringe (indeed, it is all
but impossible not to notice the Pope of Pop's melodic imprint
on organ-dotted romper-stompers "You're Laughing"
and "We'll Show 'Em"). For her part, Angel Ali plays
an agreeable guitar and contributes some shy backing sighs
- as on the slightly sinister "The Wish" and the
shimmering, piano-and-nostalgia-enhanced ballad "When
We Were Friends." Elsewhere, one suspects that the Replacements'
Paul Westerberg would gratefully accept credit for "Pull
You Back"'s barreling bounce, and "Like There's
No Tomorrow"'s joyous jingle-jangle comes courtesy of
the Byrds and Big Star.
ten songs clocking in at a pithy 34 minutes, Secrets
is a record that begs corny metaphors: the warm bowl of oatmeal
on a cold winter's morning; the calm, blissful blood-rush
of a post-coital cuddle; and that reluctant-yet-radiant rainbow
that tempers the tempest and colors the flood. Secrets
is also, essentially, a throwback album - an old-fashioned
exercise in pleasantly mellow, solidly melodic pop that neither
suffers fools gladly nor takes itself overly seriously. While
its somewhat muffled, lo-fi production may prove a frustration
to some, others will appreciate it for being so refreshingly
free of Überstudio, Backstreet sheen.
then, these Villas are of the decidedly British variety: humble
and homey with just a small yard and garden. But the garden
is charming. And these "secrets" are keepers.
out of 5.0