Jacco Gardner is a musician that's kind of hard to contextualize within the musical landscape of 2013. When I asked a handful of my friends what his music sounds like, it seemed telling that the best they could do was "uh, sorta like the Beatles." That's not a terrible comparison, though, despite the fact that every band after the Beatles sounds sorta like the Beatles. His recent release, entitled "Cabinet of Curiosities," seems remarkably estranged from the aesthetics our modern blogosphere dotes so heavily on: there's no lo-fi tape-hiss to be found, ethereal electronic soundscapes are few and far between, and nobody's mentioned "60's revivalist baroque-pop" since Grizzly Bear's 2006 release "Yellow House." Its album cover, though definitely in line with the "fed through an Instagram filter" standard, channels more Little Red Riding Hood than what James Murphy would describe as "borrowed nostalgia from the unremembered eighties." It's influences are unmistakably classic, drawing inspiration from yes, the Beatles, but also the Beach Boys and the Zombies. That description isn't entirely helpful, though, since that describes pretty much every band ever too. It's really easy to tell that even profe$$ional music critics didn't really know what to say about "Cabinet of Curiosities," because I could totally picture all of them doing "research" beforehand and just thinking "oh fuck, his Wikipedia page is in Dutch… let's just talk about his haircut instead."
His haircut, which is incidentally also inspired by the Beatles, seems to be be the only thing anyone can follow, so when I walked into the Westco cafe only to discover that it had since grown from a shaggy bowl cut to what wikipedia's list of haircuts would describe as "the pageboy," I was understandably alarmed. Really, though, this haircut talk is pretty fucking stupid, because it's really not that difficult to see what makes Jacco Gardner's music great. The production on "Cabinet of Curiosities" shows remarkable attention to detail, with a crisp and meaty low-end that really serves to complement Jacco's angelic vocal accompaniment. There's a definite sense that Jacco knows what he's doing with the highly variable texture of his sounds, and the album gains a tangible depth as a result of this expertise. The variety of the instruments Jacco employs on the record is similarly impressive, weaving strings, synths, and harpsichords together to produce a truly lush sound that always feels dense, but never cluttered. His live set up is more pedestrian, but equally effective, managing to construct a similarly larger than life psychedelic soundscape with a typical guitar/bass/keyboard/drums set-up and a healthy helping of charm. Jacco's entire band could have easily been pulled from the world "Cabinet of Curiosities" sought to create, complete with an indoor-John-Lennon-sunglasses sporting drummer, and Jacco himself adorably hunched over a synth half-shrouded by the hanging locks of his uncannily bloggable hairdo. The audience seemed more than glad to be washed over with the "oohs" and "ahhs" of Jacco's vocal harmonies and moderately danceable live adaptions of "Cabinet of Curiosities'" dozen or so tracks, which were all performed with tight intra-band musicianship/grins. You don't need to "contextualize" to Jacco to realize he's talented dude who likes to channel good vibes through weird filters, and that's more than enough to warrant recommendation in my book.