Release Date: May 5, 2015
Record label: Polyvinyl
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Hypnophobia, the second album from Dutch psych-wizard Jacco Gardner, is a pop-driven psychedelic journey through the thoughts and dreams of a very talented and complex musician. Each song seamlessly melts into the next on this record, creating a very dreamy vibe throughout. As the title suggests, this album spends a lot of time dealing with sleep, fear of sleep and dreams.
The 2013 release of Jacco Gardner’s debut album, Cabinet Of Curiosities, sparked a significant little firestorm of infatuation in neo-psych circles (those are the ones that look like Vertigo swirls). The then 24-year-old Dutch baroquer placidly took the plaudits as read and seemed to clearly envision his goals as a producer/writer and multi-instrumentalist, knowledgeably namechecking Curt Boettcher and Billy Nicholls among his influential forebears. Naturally, all of this only served to supercharge Gardner’s standing in the community, so Hypnophobia has a donnybrook on its hands if it’s to meet expectations.
Following the 2013 release of Cabinet of Curiosities, Dutch singer/songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Jacco Gardner was pegged as an heir to pocket symphonists of the '60s who labored intensively over lush studio odysseys. Sophomore effort Hypnophobia won't totally change this perception of Gardner, but it does complicate matters in an entirely welcome manner. .
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Jacco Gardner isn't what you'd call a "troubadour"; his apparent shrug to the outside world, chanting about his own inner universe which he populates with invisible synapses, situates him far away from an obvious lyrical folklore heritage and brings us closer to his hallucinogenic imagination than to impersonal, third-person narratives. No, Jacco Gardner is not a troubadour.
On his debut album, Cabinet of Curiosities, Jacco Gardner showed himself to be the best kind of revivalist. He didn't just unearth the paisley-clad bones of '60s psychedelia, he added a clean perfectly arranged modern feel that made the record sound timeless and up-to-date as well. Like that record, Hypnophobia sounds like a freshly polished psych-pop rarity that was rescued from some musty vault, with loads of Mellotron-colored songs ("Outside Forever") and stately ballads ("All Over") to keep the psych-pop hordes satiated.
Jacco Gardner’s take on psychedelia is not wholly dissimilar to that of Django Django: washed out and bleached, tending towards the dazed rather than the engaged. However, where they embrace modernity, Gardner eschews it – it’s not so much that this is a period pastiche, more that he’s settled himself in a comfortable place that he has no interest in leaving. He’s also very much a believer in less being more: melodies alter incrementally, rather than through big chord or key changes.
Maybe the title of Jacco Gardner’s Hypnophobia finally explains how he’s been able to master so many instruments (he plays everything but drums on his recordings), in addition to putting together a spot-on paisley psych impression: He’s working all those late hours, afraid to sleep. But if that’s the case, the fear doesn’t show through; the Dutch psych popper’s sophomore album is more Wes Andersonian ’60s pastiche than Nightmare on Elm Street terror. Here, Gardner adds a few more tricks to his already deep toolbox.
There's been lots of hand-wringing lately over whether the album is dead. The argument is that the format makes less and less sense in a changing world of algorithm-generated shuffle streams and 24-hour content cycles. The strongest rebuttal has been the work of multi-instrumental studio whiz kids (Tame Impala, Mac DeMarco, etc), serial do-it-yourselfers with big record collections and the time and space to put together songs unified in concept and refined in mood.