Great Gardening is a local duo that mixes the aggression and melodic sensibilities of pop-punk with the poetic melodrama of emo and the technical wizardry of math-rock. Their debut, The Backyard ep, is the perfect summer soundtrack for Canadian sad-punks. It’s short, sweet, sentimental and slightly angry. Vocal and lyric writing duties are shared by both halves of Great Gardening, Luc Sylvestre (of Jesus Horse infamy) and David Martinez. In addition to singing Luc also plays guitar, bass and programmed the drums and David also plays guitar. Thanks to Luc’s skills as a producer, engineer and mixer, at no point does this duo sound like anything less than a full band. The drums only occasionally sound fake and when they do it only gives the songs an electronic charm, similar to the weirder songs on From First to Last’s classic album Dear Diary, My Teen Angst Has a Body Count.
Luc and Dave’s singing voices are similar in a way that works as both a strength and a weakness. It makes their harmony parts tight and gorgeous but without being able to easily identify who’s singing what, they don’t really capitalize on the usual advantage of two separate vocalists.
Despite the band’s general pop appeal there are plenty of indications of a love for heavier styles of music.The few times Luc switches things up and screams are an exception and an important part of the The Backyard ep’s charm. My favorite moment on the record comes near the end of the final track, Inflation. The music descends into a beautiful and shrill post-rockesque chaos while Luc screams from what sounds like a considerable distance, the bowels of hell perhaps.
Besides the occasionally aggressive vocals, Great Gardening uses rhythmic patterns that if tuned lower and with more distortion, would easily take on the more grindcore-like tone of Luc’s other band, Jesus Horse. The light and melodic tone with which these moments are infused make them sound more like math-rock, a genre that has lately been paired quite often with emo and other punk offshoots in a way that I still find bizarre yet incredibly satisfying. The complicated nature of the music itself compliments the complex emotional tone of much of the lyrics. Both Dave and Luc sing the lyrics they’ve written and as a result, not all of the lyrics are complex and poetic. Those come from Dave almost exclusively. As an interesting counterpoint, Luc’s lyrics are typically infused with a light-hearted and pop-punk inspired sense of humour.
Given the multiple roles each member played in the recording, it seems unlikely that Great Gardening will be performing live any time soon. This is a shame considering how perfect it would be to hear these songs on a warm spring or summer night, preferably in an outdoor setting. It’s hard to separate the band’s name from this impression. Regardless of whether they planted the seed for it or not, The Backyard ep will likely have an important place in my summertime listening. It’s available as a pay-what-you-can download on Bandcamp (insert link).