Psychedelic songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jacco Gardner is sort of the Elliott Smith of retro 60s sunshine pop. But where Smith wrote doomed junkie narratives, heartbreak ballads and politically relevant broadsides, Gardner stays in the 60s witth his dreamy, trippy, pastoral baroque pop. He’s got a couple of albums out: Cabinet of Curiosities, which this blog gave a solid thumbs-up to last year, and a new one, Hypnophobia, which seems (at least from what little’s up at Bandcamp) to be more epic and slightly more beefed-up sonically. Gardner is Dutch but sings in a period-perfect , precise, cat-ate-the-canary 60s Carnaby Street London accent. Underneath, he layers all sorts of jangly, spiky, ringing, pinging vintage guitars, trebly bass and what sounds like vintage mellotron and organ (he really likes the flute patches). He’s also got a show coming up on June 11 at 10 PM at Rough Trade; advance tix are $12.
Gardner’s most recent New York show was in the middle of last August at South Street Seaport – yeah, that’s going back a ways. Listening back, what does the recording sound like? Trebly and tuneful. Outdoors in mid-afternoon, Gardner played an acoustic-electric model, backed by lead guitar, bass, drums and keys. The show was a good approximation of the meticulousness of his recordings, with enough wobbly reverb on the vocals to drive a minivan through. The lushness of the keys over a hard-hitting beat gave the songs more energy and sweep than you would expect, enhanced by how long the band jammed them out, a couple numbers clocking in at around seven or eight minutes. There were also three-part vocal harmonies that brought to mind the Zombies, the Move and the Pretty Things. And one of the later tunes, with its swirly keys, resonant guitar clang and uneasy major/minor chord changes, strongly evoked Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. All this should sound even better in the intimate, sonically superb confines in the back at Rough Trade.