Album Review: David W. Jacobsen’s 'Begin the Chagrin'
Singer-songwriter David W. Jacobsen’s latest release, “Begin the Chagrin,” continues his trademark acoustic, folk rock meanderings combining poetry, satire and storytelling. His latest effort presents an entertaining narrative of characters defined as noble, relatable, pitiable and revolting who deal with disappointment or cause it for someone else.
The lead track, “Settle,” sets the narrative tone of the album. Provided by a quirky upbeat delivery, the character knows they are not the best alternative for a relationship, yet quietly cries out, “I could make you happy / Though maybe not the most you could be / I’m here for now / So settle for me.”
Continuing in the classic narrative forms of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, Jacobsen’s 71-minute, 20-track musical storybook continues this dystopian aura with satirical, humoristic energy and vibrant delivery. Though enjoyable for a range of listeners starting with young adults, this setlist appeals, perhaps, more to the thirty-something crowd and beyond.
Musical arrangements are simplistic and somewhat predictable. They offer occasional surprise chord progressions and unconventional phrasings. Lyrically, each song possesses catchy, narrative hooks and a plot that draw listeners into an often, relatable life story.
“Guitar Guy” is an example of Jacobsen’s connection with listeners. Reminiscent of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” the song reflects the perspective of a working musician catering cover songs to listeners whose dreams succumb to various worldly pitfalls. In essence, it is the storyteller bringing to the forefront the various stories of their listeners, a continual evolution of the narrative.
Similar in ideology is “Free Bird,” where working musicians dream and strive to find their big break, yet get lost in the stigma of low-paying melancholy, stereotypical gigs. The monotony of playing cover songs in wedding and party bands reveals doldrums of a musician’s life.
Hence, the audience shout out, “Play Freebird!” to a cover band: Just how many times can the band play a common song request with authentic conviction and delivery each time before the excitement is gone and is relinquished to the group’s setlist under “awful eight” or “dirty dozen.”
As a wordsmith, Jacobsen packs his songs with cultural and social markers identifiable with his audience. With a writing flair and style similar to “Family Guy” and “Gilmore Girls,” each chapter of “Begin the Chagrin’s” plot is coded with quick wit reflecting his story.
Mixed with sparse but quick, intricate vocal phrasings and rhythms, hitting “rewind” is necessary to capture each word of the narrative. This may be Jacobsen’s intent in his craftsmanship of keeping his audience engaged in the details of the story he presents.
The periodic musical embellishments throughout the record lay flat and contribute little other than an occasional change in sonic ambiance to certain tracks. In most cases, the instrumental line, stab or break has the freedom within the arrangement to take the song to a new place musically but seldom soars.
While the important mechanics of music structure and form are essential in original song development and composition, Jacobsen’s production chops are slightly lacking throughout the record. Most notably are several points where the overall mix found some instrumentation hiding vocal lines, creating the “What did he say?” issue.
Aside from some production issues, overall, the album shows Jacobsen equally encompassing his musicianship and songwriting craft in a well-thought-out format.
Style and genre, the narrative art of Jacobsen’s works featuring a musical storybook of characters, is partly due to listening to songs by other artists today and the lack of meaning along with musical repetition present.
Refusing to adhere to what the music industry promotes in popular music today, Jacobsen values a lyrically well-crafted song with a message that strives to connect directly with the listener.
“To make successful music money, you don’t write on inspiration,” Jacobsen said. “You write for what someone else wants to hear.”
Aside from slight production and musical issues, “Begin the Chagrin” is a welcome addition to any satirical, acoustic and folk rock collection. Clever in its lyrical approach and musical delivery, David W. Jacobsen presents another collection of humorous, engaging musical tracks in a storybook format that is sure to be read over and over again by listeners.
For more on David W. Jacobsen, visit his website: davidwj.com