21 Jan Jacob Metcalf: Fjord
One of my favorite things about life, in all of its aspects, is surprises.
The value of pop music is its ability to be immediately familiar, accessible, and comfortably simple. I’ll warn you now: if you want an album that will not offer surprise, or deviate more than a line here or there from your expectations, Jacob Metcalf’s Fjord is not the album for you.
Fjord is, as best I can summarize it, lavishly reserved. The term baroque comes to mind. Wherein pop music builds an entire song around the repetition of a mildly creative idea, Fjord offers melodies in a brief flourish and then moves away from them. With more than half of the tracks on the album under three minutes, Jacob Metcalf clearly feels no need to make a paragraph out of what could be a sentence.
My Top 7 Chronological Moments of Fjord
1) One Three Nine (3:13) Early on, you are introduced to Jacob’s unique story telling fashion, which tactfully weaves together the elements of melody, lyric and arrangement. The musical narrative of this song drives toward a resolution that never comes, as the music cascades beautifully into nothing, like a chandelier falling into a pit.
2) Cut your ties (0:45) This may be my favorite melody on the entire album, and I’m only treated to it twice. Then again, when the song clocks in at less than two and a half minutes, hitting repeat is an easy decision.
3) Ein Berlin (2:00) In this verse, a story of Metcalf’s grandfathers days in a factory ends in sincere homage to the glory of hard work, especially as a sacrifice. He sings of his grandfather as “Always close to fire…his desire: raise a family, see it guarded and well fed.” There is something very noble about this summation of his legacy, and that aura is echoed in the almost regal trumpet line it precedes.
4)Just a Job (0:30…ish) Don’t wanna spoil it, so I’ll just say…hold your expectations loosely.
5) Just a Job (1:31) While the overall tone of the album is melancholy, there are certainly moments that make you wish you had been a fly on the wall at the recording session. And that spark daydreams of the lively energy this song must bring to live shows.
6) Traffic (0:30) Good music is akin to a magic trick, in that its ability to be aware of and then manipulate your expectations is both its intrigue and joy. The quick mood swing of the introduction forms a crossroads of frustration and hope. “I wish there was a way. I’ve got to find my way.” The unsettled nature of the accompaniment is enriched by the proximity of it to an introduction that you swear you had figured out.
7) Traffic (2:19-end) In this instrumental outro, you can almost feel the swell of traffic. It’s like standing in a median and hearing cars pass on either side of you.
But don’t take my word for it. Check out Jacob being joined by a few friends to perform One Three Nine on SoFar Dallas.