The songs on this album were arranged and recorded in the space of a week, recorded live; it shows in the confident and laid-back energy of the band. The Do Good Assassins are an excellent ensemble, and cellist and multi-instrumentalist Alex McMaster brings a particularly lovely expertise to her end of the arrangements. The intimacy of this album feels real, too; it's not the oddly ostentatious understatement of a '90s MTV Unplugged session, but a visit to the Assassins' musical neighbourhood.
Hawkins has always done well at the wry and gentle ballad, but Garden Songs' chief flaw may be that there is too much of that good thing. Each song on its own is a pleasure, but ten wry and gentle ballads in a row, with no messy rock'n'roll, no new sound or unexpected results of collaboration, leaves the listener wanting more, and not in a good way.
If Garden Songs is just a little taste of things to come, then all is well: The same organic and intimate approach, with a little more variety and a dash of the unexpected, could make this band's next album really worth listening to. For now, it's pleasant, but doesn't take the band much further than their own backyard. (Pheromone)