Jacco Gardner at Empty Bottle | Concert preview
Local label Trouble in Mind signs a baroque-pop obsessive from the Netherlands.
When Chicago’s Trouble in Mind Records started in 2009, its signature sound revolved around the fuzz-drenched guitars and ragged garage-punk favored by label founders Bill and Lisa Roe. But since then the local imprint has expanded its musical palette to include baroque rock, beginning with the Roes’ own outfit the Marble Vanity and more recently with their latest discovery, Jacco Gardner, a 24-year-old from the Netherlands whose delicate, tinkly music seems more appropriate for a garden tea party than a garage.
The Roes are clearly drawn to artists who share their love of ’60s music, and on Gardner’s debut album, Cabinet of Curiosities, his influences from that era are unmistakable. He may be Dutch, but he wispily sings in what sounds like an English accent modeled on early Pink Floyd records. The melodies sway with the woozy lilt of Syd Barrett nursery rhymes, while the harpsichord-heavy arrangements evoke the Left Banke’s pretty chamber pop.
It all feels vaguely psychedelic, but Gardner’s storybook lyrics never get weird enough to rank up there with the genre’s surreal classics. And though his inventive tunes would fit right in on a mix-tape of late-’60s classics, the multi-instrumentalist doesn’t offer much in the way of variety, delivering each song with a similar restrained elegance. His songwriting talent is obvious, but his recordings could use a little roughing up. Perhaps he’ll let loose a little at the Bottle with the help of a few PBRs and the Roes rallying behind him.