Sooner or later, you realize that beloved childhood fairy tales like “Hansel and Gretel” and “Little Red Riding Hood” weren’t meant to tickle children’s minds as they fell asleep — they were cautionary tales. The fable itself has a moral at the core, and teaches children dealing with the harsh realities of life, such as resisting temptation and learning about the arguable presence of God. Not long after their adventures begin, the young characters realize that even a snow-frosted or gum-dropped fairy world isn’t free of strife, grief, or the heart-aching twinges of a love lost.
Jacco Gardner himself could be character in these Grimm stories. The 24-year-old’s Trouble in Mind debut, Cabinet of Curiosities, plays like a narrated fairly tale transcribed on a golden-wisped page, resurrecting both the delight and the doom that belie children’s stories.
Cabinet of Curiosities spans a range as expansive as Grimm’s lands, conjured by the vivid imaginations characteristic of young children, or an inventive Dutch musician named Jacco. Gardner’s echoing croons resurrect sprites and the somber spirits of brooding past greats alike. The vocals eerily channel the spirit of The Beach Boys at their most morose on the album’s opener “Clear the Air” and the hand-spun “Puppets Dangling”.
Each track listens as one remembers hearing a bedtime story, especially with the majestic hums of the acoustic “Watching the Moon”. But the Syd Barrett-infused gloom of “The One Eyed King” reminds you that beheadings coexist amongst the king’s courts, and Gardner’s “Lullaby” to his listener swoons with death as he whispers, “I will bury you.”
The whimsy of the album’s title is far from unrequited. It’s curious, for sure, but to call Cabinet of Curiosities less than a delicate set of track-by-track fairy tales would be a serious insult. Like those fables we so fondly remember, Gardner’s debut is unforgettable.
Essential Tracks: “Puppets Dangling”, “Watching the Moon”, and “The One Eyed King”